Don't Make Her Ugly

J. Churchill Morris

Art knows many shapes and forms, it is not the enemy of science but rather the compliment. A five star meal, the night sky at dusk and the human figure are all canvases painted with the beautiful colors of science.

The Artist takes her shared experience in the human narrative and turns it into something tangible, she sings words for those with no voice, dances for those cannot move, brings laughter for those who forget how to smile. “That’s so true” is the chorus echoed by her fellow humans when something she creates resonates inside of them. It’s in these moments she feels most alive.

The artist spends a lifetime learning the language of their craft so they can stand as a translator, taking the most special, painful, humorous, inspiring moments off the pages of the day to day and putting them into the language of art. Art tells us, “we are not alone”. Great art simply illuminates truth.

The artist can get lost sometimes. She can become a slave to approval. She can get turned around in the search for recognition or financial gain or become exhausted from carrying all the stories of her fellow man. She has a proclivity for depression, anxiety and fear. She has the potential of inspiring hope, re-framing pain, igniting passion and breathing life into the dullest of moments. She is tired yet resilient. 

There are very few ladders for her to climb. She learns to live with less. She is often fulfilled by simply creating. But life does not stop when she creates it still demands much of her. Society has expectation that must be met. Economic exchange is inevitable.

She hopes her creations are a gift to the world, to make it better, more enlightened, happier or challenged. If the beauty she brings into the ether of our human race can slow us down for a moment and cause reflection than she is valuable.

Celebrate the artists in your life. Thank them for how they’ve brought your story to life. We are all connected, we are not alone. She lives to remind us of this in her own way.  She learns the rules so she knows how to break them. She hopes that she can be both understood and incredibly unique. She is ever evolving. She will never be “normal” but she should be respected, loved and celebrated.

This is the artist and she is beautiful

An Open and Honest Letter to My 20s

 Photo Credit Mark Ovaska 2009

Photo Credit Mark Ovaska 2009

It's an hour before the clocks and calendars tell me my 20s are gone.

These are some thoughts and reflections I'd like to share. 

 

I kissed too many and loved too few. I held on to wrong one too long and let the right one go too soon. I traveled; a lot. I went to 48 states and six countries. This country is full of amazing people with incredible stories. GO meet them, sit with strangers, ask them about their life, it will change yours.

I did not get married, I did not have children. Instead I chased the dream of being a writer and performer… I became an artist. My children are a book and two records, my love is storytelling. I’ve wrestled back and forth as to whether it was the right choice and how satisfying it truly is. I come to the belief that for me, there was no other way. I am content.

I’ve put in almost half of my 10,000 hours towards being a craftsman of word and melody. There is a difference between fame and success. In my youth I cared deeply about fame. But fame often burns bright for a short season and then fades quickly. Success is being truly great at something and getting to do it over and over and still loving it when the glory fades.

I’ve lived in my car in NY, on floors and couches in California and a fancy house in the up and coming Oak Hill neighborhood of Nashville and now I live in a garage. Things come and go. And it’s okay. I’m no less of a person in the hard times than I am in the prosperous ones. It took me a long time to believe that. Some days I still have to talk myself into knowing   

My faith has taken it’s detours, it’s had it’s own journey through fundamentalism, charismatic, confusion, apathy and re-awakening.

I’ve struggled with depression and social anxiety, sometimes to a nearly crippling extent I’ve fought with the help of counselors and family and friends to keep my head above water and lately I’ve even been swimming upstream a bit. There are still bad days, days where it’s almost impossible to face the world and it’s weight but at least for now those are farther apart than they’ve been.

I’ve been cheated on, I’ve caused others to cheat, both are terrible and painful. I’ve learned we are shaped but not defined by our past. I spent most of my twenties being afraid of going after the ones I actually cared about. It’s not a good idea. I trained myself to be more satisfied with the idea of someone and the hope of what could be than letting reality have it’s say and taking a risk. I do not recommend this approach.

I drank, I smoked, I partied, I had hangovers. I learned to take the IBUprofen before bed and then again when you wake up. I drove when shouldn’t have, I came real close to getting busted. I got lucky. I knocked that *ish off.  It turns out, I am not invincible. I never was.

I learned that people are not a commodity, they are human beings, with souls that are a part of the whole that is mankind. It doesn’t matter if our beliefs, habits, preferences, gender, socioeconomic status or ethnicity are different. We are, at our core the same. LIfe forms that simply want to know and be known and want to love and be loved.

I’ve seen plenty of sickness and death. Old people, young people. Friends, relatives, acquaintances. We only get one shot at this and it’ll probably be over before I’m ready.

I climbed no corporate ladder, I had no health insurance or 401k, I have a lot of student loan debt that sometimes keeps me up at night. Debt for a degree that has not really benefitted me in the way one would hope. But I have tried lots and lots of different jobs and I am better because of it. I fed bears, rode horses, taught snowboarding, taught PE, cooked, cleaned, watched kids, made coffee, served beer, chopped down trees and about 50 other things.

I’ve met celebrities and hung out with childhood heros some were awesome others were disappointing. Turns out heros are people too.

I only drove cars that were paid for,  I spent way too much money on coffee and eating out. I refuse to stop dreaming. I am insecure, I am afraid of thinning hair and slowing metabolism, I am self conscious about less than perfect teeth and inconvenient body hair. I started eating like one those granola nut jobs I used to make fun of. I exercise and after a while I even started liking it. I gained 50 pounds then I lost 30 of it and turned 10 into muscle. Don’t wait to treat your body well.

I am grateful for my twenties they were great. I will miss them. But I look forward to the next ten years with wide eyed anticipation for what gets built on the messy but beautiful foundation that was laid before.

 

Thank you to all those who were a part of helping me become who I am so far.

 

My 20s as documented by 5 close friends who happen to be photographers

The first 6 were taken by Mark Ovaska at various points throughout my 20s. Mark and Have Traveled to 6 countries and 15 or 20 states together these last ten years. He was just starting his career as photo journalist and I was beginning to pursue writing in a serious manner. The first photo is from my first trip to Europe, a few days after my 21st birthday. 

Photo 7 was taken by Cassie Kebler, I was in a band with her husband at the time at it was a photo shoot for a record that never got finished or released. 

8-10 Are the work of Breezy Baldwin. I had the pleasure of Driving from LA to Nashville with Breezy a few years ago and she has been kind enough to snap a few shots here and there since then. 

11 is a photo by Ashley Mae Wright , who is a member of the unrequited love, the band I made my most recent music project with in 2013. That photo was a promo shot for the record we were working on at the time. 

The final photo was taken a few months ago by Cassie Ponder. She is a new friend and somewhat of a new photographer. She has a great eye for natural, candid shots.

It was fun digging through the archives for some of these. I am so grateful to have these little snap shots of me from over the years.  

Eden & Exile - Temptatio

“Lead Me Not Into Temptation”

 

So Jesus is giving his followers this template / model prayer. What would eventually be known in Church History as the Lords Prayer. “Our Father who art in Heaven hallowed be thy name … “ The first time I remember hearing this prayer was as a child, with my mother, at an anonymous support group. It’s probably the first piece of biblical writing I ever memorized.

Towards the end of the prayer there’s a piece where Jesus says, “and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (or the evil one in some translations).

And as simple and pragmatic as the line is. a sort of  “Hey Lord, if you could help me avoid tempting situations or withstand the temptations when they come, that would be great.” Is how i grew up understanding the phrase.  

It’s interesting to me that immediately after Jesus receives the affirmation by his father during his baptism this happens.

Matt 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted[a] by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 The tempter came to him

I wonder as Jesus is modeling this prayer for his followers if there’s not a bit of intentionality in the wording “lead us not”. Like maybe he’s urging believers to petition God for the grace to avoid a situation that echoes his own.

Temptation, I believe, is not just fleshly inklings to do "bad things" it is being lead away from the intimate, affirming, presence of God and into isolation .

Love According to Wikipedia

Love According to Wikipedia

I write a lot of songs. I’ve been lucky enough to write with some

amazingly talented people over the years. Some famous, many

not, but all were very passionate about their craft. Songwriting

is such a strange process because for some it’s not really a process

at all; it’s more like an experience. For others, it’s much more

mechanical; show up at work, write some melodies, articulate

some lyrics, throw in a catchy guitar riff, and move on to the

next one.

Many of my songs are inspired by my woeful love life or the

romantic happenings of my friends. One of the recurring themes

in my lyrics and in my life is unrequited love. I have a skill for

being captivated by the uninterested. Don’t get me wrong, this

is not a cry for sympathy as much as it is a communication of

empathy. Most of us have experienced that pit in our stomachs

when someone we like walks into the room and we are dying

to confess our feelings, but we don’t for one reason or another.

Also, I imagine many of us have mustered up the courage to

actually speak our heart only to be let down easy with some sort

of “Thanks, but no thanks or, let’s be friends.”

Rejection hurts. Whether we are paralyzed by the fear of it or

immobilized by the feelings after it, it’s painful. I read an article

recently about how great music comes from broken people. For

me this is true. Some of my favorite songs are ref lections on my

least favorite moments in life. There were the girls with whom I

fell in love with the idea of them, the ladies with whom I landed

quickly in the friend zone, and the women who I actually shared

my feelings with only to be shot down like a bird in hunting

season. Yet, I have no regret of being willing to take chances

with love.

Does it hurt not to be loved back? Yes. I have been disappointed

and let down by those who used me as their backup plan, as the

emotional fill in or the fake boyfriend. Though, if I’m honest, I’m

guilty of the same with others. Everyone wants to feel love; we

crave it, live by it, and above all it’s part of who we are designed

to be. It’s no wonder the great commandment is to love God and

love others.

According to Wikipedia, “Unrequited love is love that is

not openly reciprocated or understood as such, even though

reciprocation is usually deeply desired. The beloved may or may

not be aware of the admirer’s deep affections.”

The greatest unrequited lover is Love Himself. He has deep

affection for me and sometimes I am completely oblivious.

Sometimes I make God the backup plan. I give Him a call when

I’m a little sad or lonely. I send Him a message when things with

whatever idol I’ve replaced Him with aren’t going so well. I put

Him in the friend zone and only allow my ability to give and

receive love to go so deep.

One of the worship leaders I played with years ago used to say,

“Christians don’t tell lies, they just sing them.” “…I give you my

heart, I give you my soul, I live for you alone” or “All I want

is you…” If grace is God saying “I love you,” and worship is us

responding with “I love you too”, my worship has to be more

than empty adoration sing-a-longs. I have to live love.

There is a God in Heaven who is desperately longing for a

relationship with me. The beautiful part is He loved us first, with

no hesitation, and put all His cards on the table. The cross stands

as a shameless display to win my affection. The Groom is down

on one knee, ring box open, saying, “I know you don’t really

know me, but you’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve

been watching you for a while, for your whole life in fact. I love

everything you do. I see so much goodness in you. I want to spend

all of my time getting to know you better from now until forever.

I’d be honored if you would let me.” And sometimes I say no.

While many of my songs are about unrequited love, there’s an

Author writing the poems and prose of eternity on the pages

of humanity with a pen dipped in the ink of compassion. How

incredible is the invitation to have a part in this love story?