As I sat down to write this morning, I was flummoxed.
(Flummoxed: adjective, bewildered or perplexed, as in "he became flummoxed and speechless)
It's highly unusual for an Irishman to become flummoxed.
Having received the gift of the gab from Ireland's Blarney Stone, an Irishman always has something to say, as in "I'm Irish, damnit! I have something to say!"
For several days, I'd been thinking about writing to you about the importance of community. To be more specific, artist community.
But this morning, I wondered and asked myself, "Dang, what in the heck do I have to say?"
So, with nothing to say, I got distracted and began sorting out photos from past Grove artist getaways that would best illustrate people and the importance of community.
Thus, the picture you now see at the top of this post.
And then, the heavens opened.
Looking at dear friends sitting around a sunset-lit table laughing and talking over wine and cheese before our evening meal, I was reminded how much I miss so many of the artists in our Grove community.
My immediate thought was, "I want people, not pixels."
If anything, our past six months of Covid quarantine, nationwide riots and political gun-slinging have been a toxic drain on our health and hearts in our nation and world.
It has caused a major reevaluation of many things as people like you and I reflect on what really matters.
Thus, the importance of community.
For a season, virtually every aspect of our personal and professional lives has been confined to our phones and computers as we speak to digitized representations of one another. I'm grateful for technological tools, but I still want people, not pixels.
We yearn and hunger for community. We are made for community. Without community, our hearts shrink. Our lives shrivel without authentic, loving community.
You may have become "Zoomed-out" months ago because you were tired of speaking to pixelized versions of your family, friends or co-workers.
You want the real thing. Real community. Authentic, burden-bearing community where you can share your heart and life with those you love.
People have asked me how this past season has impacted The Grove as a ministry.
My response has been, "It's been one of the best things that has happened to us in the past five years. If anything, it has clarified and raised the importance of why we meet as artists. The significance, value and importance of community, in person and virtually, has been raised like never before."
Yes, it's been a heartbreak to cancel artist retreats, but the silver lining is that we've met more artists than we've ever imagined. We're grateful for so many new friends.
As a follower of Christ, you are not designed to "go it alone."
You are made for the Body of Christ and the Body of Christ is made for you.
Whether in person or online, community is a gift we give and receive from one another.
If we really believe that Christ dwells in our hearts and lives through faith, we bring His body to one another when we meet in person and online.
Throw in your creative gifts and artistry, then things really get exciting.
I never tire of hearing people's God-given creative dreams and how new art gets released through image-bearing imaginations.
In artistic community, we get to push and challenge one another in our craft. Artist community is the incubator where we give birth to new ideas and innovations.
Without artist community, the place where we can challenge, support and push one another to new growth, we lack the fertile ground to plant new seeds of creativity for a future harvest.
So for now, we make the best of it. In person when we can and online.
God's Church, throughout history, has gone through many challenging seasons and crises.
(Reality check: seasons far more difficult than the current season we are now in, regardless of your theological persuasion.)
Christian community — the Body of Christ worldwide — offers the love, life, death, resurrection, ascension and freedom found in Christ to this broken, needy world.
We offer Christ in community to one another because our broken, needy hearts still need Christ every moment of the day.
I need Christ in you and you need Christ in me.
May you and I represent Christ well as He abides in our hearts and lives today.
I am no more flummoxed.
Questions: Why is Christian community important to you? What do you bring to your Christian community? What are the challenges of community?
I'd love your thoughts and comments.