Guest Blogger – Marty Carney: Love. Grace. Depth. Who knows?

Despensa Painting02

From an amazing vessel of the Good News. Marty is a pastor and an artist and a beautiful soul with a heart for God’s mission.  He painted the piece that is now the logo (above) for StreetLifeministries and the piece that is now the logo for ReignStorm Youth Mission. He relates this story of the emerging Kingdom of God in his mission field. If you look closely, there is life all around this.  Here you go. Marty writes:

Several weeks ago as I was enjoying a cuppa at the coffee shop, I overheard a young adult standing behind me and talking with his friend, “… and I’m on food stamps…” I heard him say only this fragment of a sentence with some anxiety. He looked to be a vibrant and healthy young adult. I was surprised to overhear this coming from him. I am still learning the diverse face of poverty. So I prayed and wondered if there might be something, some connection of hope to make with him… But since I didn’t know him, I didn’t know if I’d see him again.

Then last week at another coffee shop on my Monday Sabbath, I saw him again doing some artwork at his table across the room. I’m naturally an introvert and it was my Sabbath… but as Jesus said, the Sabbath is for humanity… so I took all this as a sign… since the Spirit had previously caught my attention about this young person’s poverty.

I got up and went over and introduced myself and struck up a conversation about his very interesting artwork. I discovered that his name was “John.” I guess with our mutual interest in visual arts, the conversation flowed smoothly. John is an artist and musician from a small town outside of Sheboygan known for its conservative nature. I asked if his family was typical of that community. Humorously he said that his parents were “former hippies” and also former missionaries in Papua New Guinea (!). Though he didn’t have transportation from his parent’s town, through his network of friends, he found rides into the city and now basically lived in Sheboygan. As an artist and musician, I assumed that the city is his only source of revenue for sharing such gifts. He said that in just a week or two, because of his lack of revenue and opportunities here in Sheboygan, we was going to move out west again. He loved the Pacific Northwest, and especially Colorado. He planned to move to Boulder, Colorado, where there is a thriving arts community.

He continued to talk about his art. He talked about how his family had always lived simply… having lived through his early childhood in the third world… I confessed to him that I was a materialistic American… but was hoping to learn simplicity. He went to say that he thought the opposite of our consumer culture was a culture of creating. So he created art and music.
So, well, I couldn’t help but resonate with that wisdom. In the coming week I would be planning the worship service for our congregation’s 175th anniversary. So I took a big leap of faith and asked John if he would have any interest in playing his music in worship next Sunday… I also said we could pay him $100.

He smiled and said, “Sure.” [really to my surprise]. So we worked out the details which also included other worship leaders from Milwaukee–which , of course, is another amazing story of God’s mission of mercy. Interestingly, all this time, as I now remember, John never mentioned the word “God” in our conversation. He did talk about his deep passion for creating. At one point I think I started to talk about my perspective on Jesus’ mission… but then I heard myself becoming a bit too churchy… so I stopped and just continued to listen to John tell his story.

So just this past Sunday, the musicians in worship were truly a mysterious reflection of the beloved community of Jesus… including John in the mysterious flow of the morning. As one church person said yesterday as we shared our typical Tuesday morning coffee, “You could tell that he [referring to John] really was an interesting character… there’s definitely a story there.”

And there was. On Sunday, as I took all the musicians (six in all, including John) to lunch, we sat around and I listened to all their stories. John in particular revealed that in his journeys out west he had been injured in a traumatic accident… And the other followers of Jesus at the table were amazingly graceful in there listening presence. We learned that John still had some brain damage because of it. And so, again, the fragile humanity of Jesus revealed in such amazing ways.

That Sunday evening, as I sat at the coffee shop in Sheboygan [having to take John’s check to him that he had forgotten at the church], I sat and again overheard him talking to a friend near where I was seated…

“Hey I played a gig at a church this morning,” John said with a little amazement.

“Yeah, so how was that? What time was it?”

“It was at 10.30. Well, there were some good vibes there, you ought to go sometime.”

“Well, maybe I’d be sober enough to drive by then. Who knows?”

Love. Grace. Depth. Who knows?

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