Wednesday, November 30, 2011


The Bible give us unequivocal promises that God will give us what we ask for - if we ask! "Ask and you will receive. Seek and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened to you." (Matt. 7:7 NIV) "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God… and it will be given to him." (James 1:5)

If that's all true then I really want to know - What is "asking"?! We have all had the experience of asking God for something and not receiving it.

Over and over again the Bible counsels us to not simply communicate with God with words, but with our whole hearts. Asking, it turns out, has very little to do with words – a request that we may present to God – and everything to do with our lives – what we all to grow in our hearts.

An interesting experiment is to ask ourselves, "If I could only communicate my desires to God with my life – no words, what would my life right now be asking for?" The answer to this question will give us a good sense of what we are currently asking God for. This is real "asking". A way to put it is that the language in which God hears is not so much words, as our lives. Our days, weeks and months, are the sentences we are speaking to God. What are they asking for? Are we asking God, Divine Love for things that She is likely to think are best for us?

In her chapter on prayer in Science and Health, Mary Baker Eddy speaks at length about desire. Desire implies a longing for something we don't have. And, bringing God into the picture, desire also implies a petition to God to fulfill that desire. "Your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matt 6:8 NIV) There is no way to demonstrate our completeness without feeling a great longing to do so! Deep desire is absolutely necessary for healing, progress and the practice of Christianity. Eddy says, "In the quiet sanctuary of earnest longings, we must deny sin and plead God's allness…Such prayer is answered, in so far as we put our desires into practice." (S+H pg 15)

What are these longings? Where do they come from? The deep desires, the longing we feel in our hearts – we did not make up ourselves. Those desires are inklings toward God. When we pray we discover those desires in our hearts like gifts under the Christmas tree.

So in essence, there must be no disconnect between our "earnest longings" and our actions! A life lived this way, keeping our outward actions in harmony with our innermost longings, is constantly reaching out to God with the heart, wordlessly asking for the heart's desire. And the Bible promises us that these petitions of the heart and life, are supplied.

It is a great, challenging adventure to strive to have the outward life reflect the deep inner longings. Why? First of all because we must learn to be silent and humble in order to hear and truly feel how God is guiding us with our desires; secondly, as we listen more and more closely, we find that our inner longings are spiritual and very often bid us to leave well trodden, familiar paths. Instead, they call us to explore new territories and ideas, and to serve. Following the desires God has put in our hearts forces us to grow, learn, expand. It put us in situations where we must overcome fear, pride, and other vices. But there is no replacing the joy and satisfaction that comes from living a life that is guided by our deep, individual, God-given desires.

When I was about 10 years into my career as a muralist I began to feel that it was time for something new in my career. For all those years my heart at sung as I painted murals. To feel that it was no longer what I should be doing was surprising and a little disorienting. I began to pray. For a time I pondered entering the military to be work as a chaplain. But as months went on, I felt that was not the right idea. My great desire was to serve, to use my skills, my individuality and spiritual conviction. I longed to be engaged with others in a way I could feel deeply. This desire drove me to search and think and feel about my purpose for being alive.

Then, about a year after I began praying about it, I received an answer in prayer: "Dedicate the first 4 hours of every day to nothing but being creative." It was an interesting command, and one that was a little scary. I didn’t know where this would lead, or how it would progress things. Being a painter, I assumed God was moving me to make some new paintings. But, when I began this discipline of making time for creativity, being obedient, instead of paintings, what came out were songs.

In a few months I had created a whole new body of spiritual music, the likes of which I had never written before. In the following years, things opened up naturally. Very soon I was making my living full time as a musician, performing in churches, and making the most of countless opportunities to serve others in new ways and compelling ways. It was a great rebirth, all brought about by the natural asking of the heart's earnest longings. It was not a career change I sought out, but rather, one that I discovered, occurring in the heart.

During that time I saw that my days of work, listening, and exploring the way to make that transition were prayers. Just by living out my longing I was asking God for help. And it was being given step by step. For much of the time I didn’t know where it was going – only that this new work was compelling to me, and made my heart sing with gratitude and long to grow into it more fully.

In short, the "asking" that matters, is a function of the heart in which we humbly allow God to tell us what we most want, and then live in such a way as to see those desires be fulfilled. This kind of asking leaves no need for words.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Art and Spirituality Interview - #3 "Community Art"

E: It sounds like the mural became the interface with the community.

A: It is an interface, and the way that spoke to me back then, and still does today is that in an image you're presenting an idea, and the ideas that I immediately wanted to present were ideas of beauty, purity, imagination, and spirit. Those four qualities were the most powerful things I could give. When I put images out there, I'm speaking with thousands of people I don't know...

E: Whether you're physically there or not...

A: Exactly. I'm not there most of the time, the mural is still there, it's been there thirteen years.

E: What is the picture of?

A: It was a tree of life. There's an angel flying over top of it, there's a city at the bottom. It was a very simple and lovely metaphor to me. It's like regular human life is there (symbolized by the city) and this tree is just dwarfing the city. This immense tree is obviously not a biological tree, it's a spiritual tree, because it's obviously far bigger than any tree really is. So immediately because it's not literally a real situation that you can see with your eyes - we know we're talking about something that is mental and not physical.

So it's represented in a way that causes us to let go of our material understanding of the world and say “Okay, something else is happening here.” The tree of life is a pretty central image, a common image, and it feels to me to put an image like that, that is pure and healthy, life affirming and beautiful, in a place that is normally dominated by commercial images, which really brings it out in even greater relief than if it was in a book or a gallery. You know, the context makes it that much more powerful.

E: Kind of like, unexpected?

A: Yes, exactly. You put an image out in the world, and what you're counting on is that the people who see it have something in their interior life that resembles that image.

E: What do you mean by interior life?

A: I mean their thought life, their feeling life. I think a lot of us have things in our lives we don't know how to put into words, we don't know how to put into language, and that's one of the ways in which artists do a service as much as a plumber or a carpenter where the artist does something that fulfills a need. We all have these interior spiritual lives. I see my role as making images that help us see that even though we sometimes can't put those interior lives into language, other people are having them too and we're together as a group.

Here's this image and it's talking about something spiritual, something deeply felt and you might see it and say “I have that feeling too, but have never been able to put it into words.” When that happens we feel, “What I doubted, I doubt less. I believe more in what I have felt because I see that someone else felt it too.” I think all of us need help in bolstering that confidence. We feel something inside of us and if we are the only people in the world that felt that we would go, “Oh my gosh, maybe that's wrong, maybe I didn't really feel it, maybe it's not that important.” That's why things like church, families, and organizations are so important – to build up our sense of idealism and foster confidence in our inner lives.

Art helps fill that role by taking images that speak about our untouched interior lives and make them relatable. It says, "Look, even though we all have our normal everyday jobs and lives, we're sharing deep experience - we all have this experience of really being alive. And art is talking about those things, that real feeling of real alive-ness. And maybe we don't know how to talk about it but look, there it is in a painting! And look, we're sharing it. That's at the heart of community.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Art and Spirituality Interview - #2 "How did you know you wanted to be an artist?"

E: How did you know you wanted to be an artist?

A: I had this trio of friends we went to high school together and we all ended up at the University of Massachusetts together and we all were artists. Beyond people who liked to draw, we all just had that feeling that art is important and it's real and it's stitched into our lives in a way that we're not going to get it out.

E: Like you couldn't separate your art life from the rest of your life.

A: Exactly, and that felt exactly right, you know? It felt comfortable to be identifying with that. I am a creator. I am someone who loves to make, someone who loves to observe, record, tell stories, things like that. And so the three of us really worked off each other. We all had our own things going in different directions, but I know we really took strength from having the other two around us whose presence said, “There are really other people in the world like this.” And at one point, Pasqualina (one of these friends) painted a mural. It just put something in my mind that that is something people can do. At the end of college I had to make a body of work to graduate. I had been thinking about what to do and it just sort of dawned on me, that the way to make work that you don't have to submit to this gallery culture, is to skip the gallery and put it in a place where everyone can see it. And I thought "Murals! It's brilliant!" As long as I can find someone who will allow me to paint on their wall, there is then nothing that can keep me from taking my best ideas and putting them in front of the whole world. That was incredible! That was an amazing new thought to have, and then when I did find a wall that was available to me, it was a beginning of an adventure that was the next twelve years of my life. That really felt like a new step because murals are very different in that they're public art. I didn't know this at the time but I began to learn very quickly that public art is very different than private art.

E: In what way?

A: Oh there's so much. Prior to my first mural, when I heard people talking about "community" events or "community" art, I had sort of a negative connotation with those words. I felt like “community” in that context meant it was going to be watered down, that it wasn't going to be as good as something that was made by someone working in their studio being real, making something wonderful. I had this notion that it meant it would be forced and a little superficial. That's the idea that I had. When I went to paint my mural, my first one, (It is in Northamption, MA) I went sort of imagining that I'm just in my studio, making another painting. I'm not thinking of the people around me or anything like that, I'm just making a good painting. But when that happened, when I first started, I became so terrified because I realized there were hundreds of people driving past me, watching me, every hour.

I thought, "What if I mess up?" Because I mess up in paintings all the time, you know, like I'm in my studio and I mess up on paintings constantly and you correct them and whatever. It's a completely different thing to make a 16 foot tall painting and your working in public. In a studio, you're working in private and you don't have to worry about anyone looking over your shoulder, correcting you, saying your idea is stupid, all these different things...whereas in public, you have no idea what people are going to say. Anyway, I was feeling really, really afraid about what people were going to say and I couldn't proceed. I was there at the wall and I could not physically proceed because I was too scared.

So I stood there at the wall and prayed. Inwardly I was like, "I know I'm supposed to be here and this feels exactly right but, how do I do it? The idea that came as I listened in my thought was, "This is your opportunity to give a gift." It was so simple, yet it floored me. That thought changed everything. Prior to that, I had thought this was about me expressing myself, but after that I realized this is not about "expressing myself" as such. Rather, this is about giving something that is going to make the community better. Someone who is walking home from work and they've had a rotten day will feel “Oh that's beautiful!” or the kids are walking by and they just have it in their head that there is a beautiful picture over there. This mural can silently influence people's lives just by being beautiful.

That was a complete change to the lens through which I was seeing this event. It stopped being about how I felt, and instead it was about sharing something good. Immediately I had a new feeling of, “Oh man I really want to give a good gift! I want so badly for this to work!”

I find that when I have power, when I have the ability to make a difference, I want so badly to use it well. Whereas when I don't feel like I have power to make a difference, I may be a whole lot less motivated. So, feeling the power to give a beautiful gift was very invigorating.

E: I see your hand pulling almost from your heart.

A: Yeah, it feels that way. Realizing it was a gift to the people of that neighborhood helped me feel more of the power that I have as an artist. I had the power to actually help peoples' hearts. That's when I began to feel a real love for that community, that neighborhood. The word “community” stopped being something that I was skeptical of and started being something that I believed in deeply. It was just about loving people.

E: It wasn't some ideal out in the clouds.

A: Right, and it didn’t mean (like I had thought it would mean) something watered down or insincere. But I knew that this mural isn't watered down at all. I was feeling, "I want this more than anything! I really believe that art can help people." Now, I have come to see that art can influence and even save lives and that's what my art is about. So that was the first step and then the next many years after that were about continuing to explore "How does this actually work? How do I actually influence lives with pictures and poetry and images?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Art and Spirituality Interview - #1 "Where does your art come from?"

Last year my friend Ellen Hammond interviewed me about my career, art, and spirituality. Over a series of 9 posts, I will be sharing the interview here. It contains a lot of ideas and explanations that are central to my approach to art, expression, and life in general.

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Ellen: Where does your art come from?

Alex: Where it all comes from is something that I have learned over the years. When I was beginning, maybe in my early twenties, my art and my music felt like they came from different places. I would generally make art about what seemed like fantasy and visionary sorts of themes, whereas music was about my feelings and emotions and relationships - they seemed very, very different. And then over the years as I explored them both pretty equally, as they both became more spiritualized, as I dug deeper and deeper because I loved them so much, they became closer, and closer, until it was clear that their source was not different. At some point, it dawned on me that all the ideas that I'm having and loving are coming from a source that is not me, because I'm not making up a thought. It's more like I'm receiving a thought. Even if I'm the first person ever in the world to think it, it's not that I made it up. Rather, I innocently received it. Things became much simpler when I realized that they weren't separated, the music, the art, the poetry, whatever - making jokes in a conversation – I began to see that it is all coming from the same good place. And it works best when I'm not afraid, when I'm not concerned about how I appear to others, when I'm just working, just listening. And that felt really profound to see that all my favorite ideas came from the same place. At that point I started to feel like making a song is effectively the same thing as making a painting except I'm using a different way to express an idea. Outwardly they're different but at the point I see that I'm just dealing with ideas, it's all sort of the same.

E: Can you pinpoint why you were initially drawn to making pictures?

A: Well I had never painted a mural until I was 23 years old and I was making stuff years before that. As a kid I was drawing. I started to feel like something really wonderful was happening around the age of 17. I remember walking around my little suburban hometown late at night. I started going on walks and it just seemed like the whole world was beautiful. You know, the street lights coming through the leaves in the summer. That's one of the first images in the world that I noticed was beautiful - electric street lights illuminating these green leaves in the summer night. And to my little 17 year old high school heart, I was like “Wow that was beautiful!” and so I started making drawings of it, and of myself walking underneath them. It was really an exploration of “Who am I?” I liked depicting my own life and thinking about my own life, and making a record of it in drawings and paintings, marker sketches and such. I had just started playing guitar a few years before that. The exciting thing was to explore what my life is about – "Who am I?" and "What are these feelings that I'm having?" And so that was sort of the beginning of the path. Art was very important to me long before I ever made a mural.

Then, years later, when I started making murals it was for no better reason than that I didn’t like the idea of pleading with a gallery to show my work.

E: Like for the process of being approved or rejected? Like trying to conform to what you think that gallery is looking for?

A: Exactly.

To me, this creation, this creativity is the purest thing I know of in my life. At that point, there is nothing I love more than that. I thought there's got to be a way for me to do this and have it remain completely pure and not immediately submit to this thing to commerce and what felt like impurity. I knew nothing - nothing about galleries or anything like that, but it certainly has a reputation of being not the most supportive community in the world. It's obviously a really broad community and there are good experiences and bad experiences. My thought at that time was, if you put your stuff in a gallery you may get a show, and you may get a smattering of people who come and see your work, but how many people actually go to a gallery on any given day? How many people actually go to a museum? It's not really that many!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


What is humility?

Humility is asserting no personal will, and submitting to the designs of Truth, God.

According to Mary Baker Eddy, "Your mirrored reflection is your own image or likeness. If you lift a weight, your reflection does this also. If you speak, the lips of this likeness move in accord with yours. Now compare man before the mirror to his divine Principle, God. Call the mirror divine Science, and call man the reflection."

What can this metaphor of reflection tell us about humility?

If the original, God, standing before the mirror, declares something powerful and unequivocal like, "I AM THAT I AM" (Ex. 3:14), or " Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away," (Luke 21:33) the image in the mirror is incapable of doing anything else but what the original has done.

God has declared these things. If the original acts with immense power, grace, and self-assurance, the reflection cannot but do the same.

This is humility. God is marvelous, masterful, glorious, unselfish, unhindered. The only thing God lacks is problems. God is successful, fearless, loving, good, moral.

Humility sets aside every human opinion, sense, and accepts without comment, the actions of the original, God.

We are humble because we are so proud of God. And this humility lets us see how incredible, glorious, worthy, and valuable we are.

In the beautiful words of John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Ageless Quality

I notice a thought coursing around us that says that people who are older are somehow less important, or just less good, than younger people. I recently heard a friend tell of a performance they did that was "for a bunch of old people but it was still great". The implication was that, for some reason, performing for older people is somehow not as worthwhile as performing for younger people.

Frankly, it seems like a thought that has established itself pretty firmly in the assumptions of popular culture. Maybe it's because popular culture is aimed at younger audiences.

In any case, it's wrong. Not just wrong in that it's rude, but it's also wrong in that it's incorrect.

It is very beautiful for me to remember and feel that everyone is timeless. When I am standing in front of an audience that ranges in age from 11 to 100, I am touched, again and again, by the fact of the equality of all the folks in the room. Each one is there as a creation of an eternal God. And when I think of why we are all there – to imbibe and interact with holy spiritual concepts – I see more and more that when someone is opening, moving, striving to learn and grow, they are entirely alive. They are ageless and wondrous.

An artist, a musician, a story-teller seeks to touch the hearts of an audience – seeks to reveal the color and wonder of life to the group of hearts standing before him. To that artist it is nothing but a burden to see age. Seeing age divides and materializes our vision of the world. Instead, it is amazing to throw off the veil and see that the music, the ideas, the color of life itself, is doing the work of reaching those hearts. The substance of each one is ageless, interested, agile.

The basic burden of age is the belief that one can no longer learn, change, grow, or be useful. But a heart that is open, striving, interested, and engaged, is ageless.

We all can only prove and demonstrate our alive-ness, our value, our worth, by living! By bringing out the ideas, the dreams, the inspirations that come to us as we keep our minds open, agile, fruitful.

Older folks don’t need to buy into this materialistic notion, and neither do younger people need to be fooled into thinking they are somehow better. Spiritually, (meaning, really) people are absolutely EQUAL. We are timeless ideas, each with an amazing character to be revealed further and further.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

How To Go On A Good Walk

Going for a good walk is one of my favorite things. In fact, I would say that I'm pretty darn good at it. Yep. That’s a resume booster alright.

I love walks because, for me, they are more than a little exercise – they are an opportunity to see differently. It is a time to take myself out of mundane things, and instead, just look. Look for beauty. Look for wonder. Look for any little trail of crumbs and follow it. I find that when I do that, almost always, there is a story that unfolds.

Try one, or some, of these ideas next time you go for a walk.

1) Actively look for beauty, mystery, delight.
2) Don't plan where you are going to go, and don't go somewhere you always go.
3) Listen to your intuition when you are deciding which way to turn. Decide with your feeling instead of logic or reason.
4) Pick up something you like and carry it in your hand
5) Entertain the idea that you might have an interesting interaction with another being while you are on this walk. (Person? Dog? Snail?)
6) Stop and look at things
7) Make up a little song that you can sing while you walk (don't be embarrassed!)
8) Look at your neighborhood as if you were a visitor and had never been there before.
9) Let the route you follow be guided by what you find interesting. Go exactly to the things you find most engaging.
10) Look for things you didn’t know about wherever you are.

Here are a few more for the really committed wonder-walker:

11) Jump over at least one fence
12) Find a way to be in more than one type of space – cross a boundary of some kind. (commercial/residential/rural/woods/train tracks/behind the mall/inside an office building/beach/fancy neighborhood/poor neighborhood/in a crowd/solitary, etc.)
13) Make something out of things that you find on your walk
14) Choose a place you know of, but don’t know how to get to. Walk there without consulting a map.
15) Find a secret passage (They exist.) and follow it.
16) Get yourself lost, and then, get yourself un-lost.

There are a million soul-stirring adventures that can begin the moment you step out the door.

Let me know what you find!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Power of God Defies Limitations

Last Friday I was looking forward to the first concert of this tour, which was to be in Bellingham, WA. I have been working on putting together this tour, sharing my new music, and reaching people with its message.

On Friday night I began to feel sick. I was dizzy, weak, and my throat was raspy and I couldn’t sing.

I began to feel afraid for the concert. What if I still can't sing tomorrow? The idea of calling off the first concert of the tour was awful.

So, I began to pray, and I called a Christian Science practitioner to pray with me. He told me confidently on the phone that no one was singing here but God.

I woke up during the night several times, feeling afraid that the concert was going to be ruined. The implication in this fear was that God didn’t care for me, and that I was alone to deal with this situation on my own. Each time I would remember God, try to draw my thoughts of Divine Love close to myself.

When I awoke in the morning I was feeling the same – woozy and my throat didn’t work. I called the practitioner again, and again he brought out the same idea – Only God is singing here – not you, not a throat. And nothing can stop God from singing to His creations. The practitioner continued to pray for me through the day.

As I continued to pray too, I began to think about the purpose of this concert. The fear of its being ruined had led me to believe that it was about me – my succeeding or failing. But praying about it, I realized that, of course, this concert is about giving a gift to the audience. It is about sharing the gifts that God has given me and letting others be blessed by them. I began to realize that no matter how I feel, I am going to proceed with this concert and find some way to bless these people who are coming to hear me. I began to feel a faith that God is here, and will open a way for something wonderful to happen. I thought of Christ's counsel to become as a little child.

So we went ahead with our rehearsals. I was glad to be moving forward even though I didn’t know how it would come out. Then, about halfway into our rehearsal, all the symptoms I had been experiencing, including not being able to sing right, disappeared. I felt strong, like the wet blanket was lifted from me. And I had to attribute it to the morning's prayers. It simply wasn’t true that God, or God's children could be held back, kept from doing good work.

The concert was wonderful. We had such a good time, and the audience loved it. Afterwards, I was delighted and humbled to heard several people tell me of how my music had helped them through a difficult time, or led them to a new understanding of some spiritual concept. And there were a few moments in the concert, when I was singing particularly high notes, that I thought, "This would not be happening but for the healing power of God. He is here to heal!"

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Faith in Good

After a few months of work, work, work, I am now in Seattle, WA, getting ready for the first show of this west coast tour I have been planning. Hurray!

The development of this tour is showing me again a lesson that I keep on learning - With concentrated labor and thought, progress gets made.

I dont know about you, but there is often a voice in my thoughts that says, "This project is just too big! There is no point in even starting because you will never get far enough with it to make it worthwhile." There were lots of times in the planning of this tour when I really had no idea how to proceed, where certain necessities were going to come from, or if there was really any hope of it becoming a reality.

Each time I do proceed though, with a daunting project like this, I see it slowly transform from an idea in my thoughts, into a real thing that is going to happen.

There are lots of things that enable us to move forward in the wilderness of our labors - skill, dedication, vision, etc. But the one that feels the most important to me is faith. Faith that I am supposed to be doing good work. Faith that Life is conspiring with me to achieve good things. Faith that my best ideas are the very thing I should be working on.

I find that this faith, which is based in a deeply felt feeling that God is good and the supplier of this best ideas, is what allows me to keep working, listening, and exploring when the path is not clear. Or when the work takes more patience than I would like to spend.

I thank God for the gift of this work, and that this tour has become a reality. I am so looking forward to seeing you (west coasters) at a show, and to celebrate with you the practical Love of God.

See you on the Road!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I Can Hear The Marching

In my life I have been a weigher of ideas, a considerer, a philosophical wrestler. And from this wrestling I have come to feel that for me, reading the scriptures is not simply about hearing and considering ideas about God anymore. It is about drinking them in with the intention of letting God's ideas rule me.

The ideas of the Word are the Army of the Lord. To the degree that we open the door, these ideas come and quarter themselves in our homes, doing exactly as they please. And they are better than we are. They leave it cleaner than we do. After a visit from the Army of God the plumbing works better, the windows are clean, the table and cupboard are gorgeously stocked, and the art on the walls is more beautiful. In fact, opening the door wide, we welcome their beautiful service of Love.

They do things we have no idea of. These ideas transform us and grow gardens and orchards in closets we had locked and forgotten about.

Reading the Word we are not meant to be the master. The Word is the master to us and turns our homes, our thoughts, into living gold.

I have come to trust that God knows more than me. I know that often some good thing that is coming to me straight from the fountain of Mind, I don’t recognize immediately. In fact, sometimes I fight it tooth and nail. These days, when I read the scriptures, when I listen for the Word of God to be spoken in my life, I am thinking of opening my door wide, and laying quietly by while His brightly dressed soldiers come in the door and do their work.

Below is a new song, about the above ideas. You can listen to it here

I Can Hear The Marching
Alex Cook

Open up the doors and the windows of the house
For the army of the Lord is coming
His legions fill the hills and they do just as he wills
I can hear the awful glory of their drumming

Open up the doors and the windows of the house
For the angel of the Lord does now approach
He will let not one thing stand that was not made by God's own hand
All flesh feels the fire of His reproach

And I can hear the marching of the army of the Lord
He is coming, He is coming, feel no fright
Only render up your lives, trusting ever in His grace
Which will come like a thief in the night

Open up the doors and the windows of the house
For his sentinels are presently arriving
They fill the sky with light, burning everything in sight
While the creatures of his hand are gently thriving

Open up your windows for the Lord is at the door
He will enter this your house, which he owns
Open up your hands and reveal all that you have
Because nothing will be left of these old stones

And I can hear the marching of the army of the Lord
He is coming, He is coming, feel no fright
Only render up your lives, trusting ever in His grace
Which will come like a thief in the night

The Lord comes to destroy without mercy on the wrong
Like a hunter with his eye upon the quarry
And as we stand and gape, we learn to love is to escape
And always for our good and to his glory

And I can hear the marching of the army of the Lord
He is coming, He is coming, feel no fright
Only render up your lives, trusting ever in His grace
Which has come like a thief in the night

Come O Glory, to this, my house, burning from the south unto the north
You are my savior and by your fire, you cause me to come forth
I am saved by fire, I kiss the holy cross
God's glory is revealed, it fills the mountains and the fields
Light is all around, my savior came and found me
And nothing but his love can I feel.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Like a freshman at the high school dance

One of the things I found most moving about the presentation at the Museum of Science planetarium (see my last post) was information about what astronomers these days are working on.

They are looking at solar systems light years away, which can barely be seen with our best telescopes. But, by following the line of scientific exploration they have been able to translate the tiny amount of information we are able to obtain into facts about the planets there. From those facts they are able to intelligently speculate as to the nature of those planets and the possibility of their ability to sustain life as we know it.

The depth of intelligence in this field is staggering. The very idea that people have had the audacity to imagine that from tiny sparkling pinpoints in the night sky we would be able to intelligently speculate on the nature of the distant universe, is deeply humbling.

Then, to observe that what we are doing with that information is seeking to know if there is life out there. Perhaps it is the obvious thing to wonder. But as I watched this computer-generated illusion of stars whirling around in the dome above me, learning about the tenacity, patience of scientists seeking to learn about such impossibly distant places – I began to have a feeling of how much we want to find someone else out there.

In fact, in a way, we are like a freshman at the high school dance, surrounded by the great unknown, the whirling lights, feeling alone (sound familiar anyone?) and just longing for someone to connect with. We, here on earth, are longing, deeply, to find that we are not alone in the universe. Our scientist are searching, year after year, against impossible intellectual odds, like a needle in a million haystacks, for signs of life beyond ourselves. And they are finding enough to interest them that they continue. What else is there to explain it? We want to find someone to relate to!

I am convinced that as each of us seeks further into our worlds, we are allying ourselves with the great human longing to grow and connect. As we break through our own fears, our boundaries, our small thoughts, we are helping the whole human family do the same. And each time we do, we find more and more to love, to connect with, outside of ourselves.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Life on Other Planets. Is God Just For Earth?

Tonight I attended a preview of the grand opening of the brand new planetarium at Boston's Museum of Science.

In addition to the gorgeous show of new technology, animation, and sound, and the interesting new information about the search for life on other planets in the universe, it gave me a great opportunity to think about the spiritual ramifications of life on other planets.

When I was in high school I had a bit of a breakdown one night when I first wondered if the laws of God applied to life on other planets! For some reason, I found it difficult to imagine that God would know anything of them. The words and teachings of Jesus seemed so tailor-made for the people of earth.

But tonight, as we soared through the amazing reaches of space, learning about the distances, the possibilities, the ever-crumbling limitations I felt entirely differently. It dawned on me what a glorious thing it is that in the event that there is other life out there in the universe, the laws of God apply as much to them as they do to us.

Love your neighbor as yourself. Is it actually universal? It must be.

A God who is infinite love, not only loves creatures we don’t know about yet, but made them!

We think we have a difficult time resolving conflicts that arise out of cultural differences? Hah! What about a culture that comes from 100 light years away? Possibly unfamiliar with basic things that are the most obvious to us? With an entirely different way of approaching the whole phenomenon of life? And yet infinite love is so infinite that even cultural differences like that can be worked out through its practice - recognizing the God-created nature of every being. If God created all that was made, then the spirit of Love is resident with every creature.

Can you imagine the butterflies in the stomachs of people around the world when and if we first interact with other creations?

How important it will be to approach that new, uncharted relationship, armed with our understanding of God's goodness – the inherent goodness of every one of Love's creations.

God bless the human striving for understanding! - reaching out longingly into the stars, yearning and hoping, scanning the heavens for more…


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

An idea whose time has come

I love the idea that you can't stop an idea whose time has come. We often talk about it when we see some grand thing, like the end of slavery in the US, or the end of Apartheid in South Africa. The list is long and wonderful.

To my understanding those things happen when the people involved are finally ready to accept a universal, holy truth such as the spiritual equality of creation.

But, if God is bringing out these ideas in the immense things of the human experience, is he just holding back at the other times? Shouldn’t there always be some idea or another whose time is coming right now?

I believe the answer is yes! And if we look at the grand examples, we see that, of course, in every case, it was decades, even centuries of battling, pushing, arguing, and brought clarity to the right idea, the right way to proceed.

We can all speed along this process by watching intently for those ideas whose time has come now. What ideas are coming to the forefront of your thoughts? What ideas are pushing you to change? To grow?

We are sometimes inclined to hate ideas that make us change or grow. It feels uncomfortable, unfamiliar, and insulting. But that is the best way to be caught on the side of an argument that posterity will not smile upon.

The implication in the phrase, "an idea whose time has come" is that behind the idea is an acting force causing the idea to dawn in our lives. There is a sense that the idea is in some way independent of human opinion. The implication is that it is simply a right idea, which has finally been seen for what it is.

I want to be involved in real progress. I want to see the ideas whose time has come, come! I want to see what they are and watch them transform and improve me and the rest of the world.

So I am striving to be better at seeing what is out there, watching my thoughts and the thoughts of those around me. I want to be ready for the new thoughts that the Almighty is bringing forth in human experience. I want to see and feel the greater freedom and purity that moral struggle brings out in us.

Here's an idea whose time has come: Watch and stay agile.

Matt. 24:42-43
"Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched…"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eyes to see and ears to hear

In my life as an artist I have felt rich with ideas. As I have learned that God is the source of all my inspiration it has become simple and easy to remain inspired, delighted, and motivated. Really.

In fact, in the past years I have come to feel this way, best expressed in an image: I am standing on a huge pile of riches – gold, silver, gems and jewels piled so high I can see all around the city from the top of the pile. I am delighted to have these treasures, and all in the world I want to do is share them. I want to give them away. I want others to see them and feel them and be blessed by them as I have been. And that is the work of being an artist.

One of the greatest blessings to me is people who ARE blessed by the art that I bring out. And this is true of any artist. We are all deeply indebted to the ones who have the eyes to see and the ears to hear and the hearts to be touched.

This is true in art and it is true in every other facet of life. When you have something to give, you need someone to give it to. We are all in that position. Our lives are to share our treasures. We spend a lot of our lives learning what our treasures are, and the rest of our lives laboring to give those treasures to others.

We all NEED people who are interested in these riches! Folks who are searching for the true riches of life – the spiritual ideas, the inspirations and heart-ideas that God is bringing forth through his children.

Infinite Mind has put all kinds of beautiful thoughts and dreams in each of our hearts. It seems the world, with its negative opinions and bored outlook, mostly would like to kill those dreams and see them never come to fruition. Every heart needs supporters, listeners, hearers who want to see and know the good thing that God is bringing out in them.

One of the best ways to give is to be committed to receiving. Be willing to accept that we are surrounded by geniuses – geniuses of God's creating. All around us are the riches – the hearts that are filled with dreams and good ideas. This is how the human race is, and will be, knit together – with the expectation of good things from those around us. Each one of us has the great soulful opportunity to bring out wonderful things, and to see, appreciate, adore, and drink in the good being brought out by those around us.

A huge, heart-felt thank you to all of you, for your open eyes and ears.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Van Gogh sold only 1 painting in his lifetime

Where were the millions of people who now adore his works?

Van Gogh's vision of beauty was so new, so individual, and so different from what had come before that most people didn't have the eyes to see it. For that reason his work was ignored.

Until! Over time people began to see the innocence, the purity, and vibrancy that are the substance of Van Gogh's paintings. Little by little people began to realize the courage, and beauty that he fought to unveil.

In the decades after his death the art world wondered to itself "How can we make sure we don’t miss the NEXT Van Gogh?"

It's a good question! How can we make sure we see the glorious, surprising things that exist and are coming newly into the world?

The world has it's eyes set on doing. Personal achievement. Making a name for one's self. But one of the most deeply needed things in the world is people who can appreciate what is there. Appreciators. People whose eyes and ears are open to see and explore the wondrous things of creation. Surely Van Gogh was one of those people when he saw in his heart what came out on his canvases.

In fact, there are countless ideas and visions coming into the world through the eyes and ears of people all the time. There are amazing artists sewn among us like invisible gems. In fact, everyone is bringing forth something amazing. Who has the eyes to see it and the ears to hear it? I wish I were better at this!

It is entirely in the interests of the seer and hearer to make their eyes and ears broader and deeper. The more good we can see, the more deeply we feel love, adoration, admiration, worth and value in our lives. Seeing beauty in the world around me is what first taught me, beyond a doubt, that God exists.

There are countless wonders in our world, hidden in plain sight. Let's open our eyes and ears and drink in the riches…

Matt. 13:9
"Who hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Monday, January 31, 2011


I have been learning recently, because of a handful of business interactions, that sometimes there is simply nothing I can do, personally, to make a situation go how I want it to go. These interactions have made me angry, and sometimes I let the person know exactly why I was angry and what they should do to fix it.

The thing was, in every one of these situations, when I expressed my anger and what I wanted the other person to do about the problem, it didn’t make it better. In fact, the problem remained, unfixed, and the relationship got worse.

It would have been one thing if it happened once, but 3 times?

As I have started to look at it more closely, I am coming to see/feel/sense that the angry things I am feeling and wanting to say are really pretty useless. It doesn’t mean that my opinion is useless, but that something else is going on than my opinion.

In the Lord's Prayer we pray "Thy will be done," and I am getting a first hand lesson in how different that is from "My will be done". The more I look at it, the more I see that sometimes my will is really dumb!

Honestly, sometimes when I am praying recently, the voice that comes to my thoughts is (in such a nice way, really) "Shut UP!" It's saying. "Just be QUIET for a second and let God be his amazing, soulful self, and quit saying all these same old things, always trying to get YOUR way." But really it just comes as a feeling that says, "Now is not your turn to talk".

Often when we talk of "humbling" experiences it means something bad happened, or we failed at something. But it feels so good to shut up and let God be good. Being humbled is the best. So peaceful.

Clamoring about to get my own will is like picking a scab. The wound never heals. But ceasing all that, and instead waiting, listening, working, praying - causes me to feel cared for, remembered, and let's the problem be taken care of – in the right way.

May we all find more of the peace of God's sweet will. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Listening To The Inner Voice

Listening to the inner voice is such an interesting thing to do. You never know what it is going to say!

Recently a woman I work with spoke to me in a very condescending and disrespectful way. Over the several years we have worked together, this has happened not-infrequently. It used to make me very, very angry. Until today, literally each time I have listened in prayer for how to respond, the voice has said, "bite your tongue, be humble, let it go." And each time I have striven to do that. It has been good practice for me to not react, and instead think of her charitably.

Today when these words came out of her mouth the things that were said were so out of place, so, not right for the situation, that the inner voice, in all confidence said, "It is best to let her know that what she said was inappropriate".

Interestingly, I still had to do some wrestling with feelings of anger because I knew that just because the inner voice told me to speak frankly to her, it was not a license to speak with anything less than love. In fact, the feeling was simply that this communication was what was necessary. Certainly not an opportunity to vent. I find the inner voice tells me to do not what I want, and not what someone else wants, but what best fills the need of the situation.

It is fascinating to me to see these thoughts evolve because in times past I came to associate confronting her with selfishness. I had wanted to confront her to tell her all the reasons the way she was acting were wrong. But each time, as I was honest with myself, I saw that blowing up at her wouldn’t do any good. This time, however, I felt in my bones that it would be selfish to not have this open communication.

This is what gives me so much confidence in the inner voice – it is not the same every time. It's not a rule book, but a living, adapting, creative voice that responds with confidence and causes me to be bigger and better than I have been before.

What is the living inner voice saying to you?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Songs from the Valley

Many years ago I recorded my first cd. Not Tree of Life (2009), but way, way before that. I called the compilation of music "Songs from the Valley" because it was a bunch of songs I wrote as I was battling my way out of a bad depression. In any case, I loved the songs. They were, to me, some of the greatest riches I had been blessed with as I fought my way through that rugged time.

I felt, as I always do when I make something; I wanted very much to share it! I wanted to show everyone else these treasures I had found and for them to be touched by them as I had.

So, I worked and worked to get it ready to give to my friends and family. It was more labor than I had ever put into a music project before and I knew they were all going to be as delighted and amazed by the songs and ideas as I was. When I was finished with it I began to give them out to all the folks I knew.

Thing was, weeks and even months passed and no one that I gave it to said anything about it. I was really surprised. No reactions, no "I really like this one", or. "what's this song about?"– actually nothing!

In fact, the only person who responded was my mom. And it seems, she really liked it. Of course I asked myself, "Does she just like it because she's my mom?" She was full of questions and observations about the songs, and every once in a while, when she was struggling with something of her own, she would intimate to me that the songs were "like water in the desert" to her.

At first I was hurt because all the other folks didn’t respond. But, after some humbling, and some self-reality-checking, I realized I couldn’t fret over it.

So, the positive was that my mom really loved it. It was humbling, but I was moved to ask myself. "If I wrote, recorded, mixed, and labored over these songs for only one person to really enjoy, was it worth it?" "If the inner Voice, my beloved inner compass, caused me to entertain these ideas so intimately and powerfully over all that time, believing that lots of folks would love it, and instead, just one did – was it worth it?" The voice of the world would certainly say no. It would (and did, in my thoughts) insist that I as a huge loser because no one cared about my creations except my mom (who, some would argue, has to like them).

But, in the place of real honesty I had to admit, yes. It was all worth it. To think of being able to reach a single person in that tender place of spiritual honesty – there is nothing that can replace it. And it is just what this artist always hopes to do.

There was one other person who was blessed – me. When I think of how deeply I was touched, healed, moved, and instructed by fighting the battles, doing the work, laying it all on the line for those songs, I can't imagine myself without those riches.

It was the beginning of a long, rigorous, and expansive path that I am still exploring. I have found that learning to give gifts that actually do the job – healing, helping, inspiring, encouraging, is a demanding road – humbling and exalting.

Bless you as you walk that path too!

If you want to hear a couple of songs from Songs from the Valley, go here. You will find "Christ in the Grass" and "Prayer for Purity" on the collection "Unreleased Gems".

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Body Of Christ, Hiking Through The Woods

Recently I went to an interesting event. It was a Sermon on Mount Hike/Lecture. 50 of us folks were lead on a 2 mile hike and through the woods while every so often we would stop and the speaker would talk us through some of the points of the Sermon on the Mount. Because so many of the points in that part of Jesus' teachings are based in images from nature, it was very interesting, direct, and brought some new insights.

An interesting part of the event was the way the ideas of the Sermon on the Mount bounced around among us as we walked together. Unlike most talks, there were few words, and more time to think about what had been said. And, there were opportunities to talk about the ideas, and even talk about unrelated things. It was lovely to see how the deep spiritual ideas bubbled through the conversations I had with others.

The thing that stuck with me the most, however, was the parallel between this walk and being a member of a church. How? Well, there were 50 of us, of all different ages, hiking abilities, interests, etc. Some of us like to walk fast, and others more slowly. Some folks were happy to have help crossing the streams while others leapt from stone to stone with great ease. Some folks were there because their parents had brought them and others because they were hungering deeply for a better understanding of Jesus' teachings.

All that said, if, by the end of the hike the group had split up based on those differences, it would have been a failure. Everyone had to get there in order for it to be a success. It was quite a powerful image to literally see varying paces at which members of the group were walking. Some were far, far ahead. Others were work as hard as they could, with lots of help from others, and courageously bringing up the rear. Sometimes I thought, "how can we remain one group?!" The needs and desires seemed so different and incompatible!

Yet, we did remain one group. The whole group went up and down the mountain together. And within the time we spent together there were countless ideas shared, connections made. Certainly there was no way to know all the conversations that took place. And some of the people never spoke to one another. But it was a living, breathing organism while we were together. It was a group that was alive together, striving together, allowing for differences, and coming together when it was needed. When some needed help it was given gracefully, even generously.

Seeing church in a microcosm like this makes everything seem a little easier than it is in a real church experience maybe – because it is so literal a metaphor. Of course you help someone across the stream when they need it! Still, I am finding it a hugely useful metaphor as I think about my church experience – that we are the body of Christ, and if the body is divided there is no success. But when the body is supple, strong, agile, and flexible, its progress is beautiful and causes greater unselfishness.

I love this from 1 Corinthians:

For the body is not one member, but many.
If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body?
If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling?
But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him.
And if they were all one member, where were the body?
But now are they many members, yet but one body.
And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.
Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:
And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.
For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked:
That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.
And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.