Back in November / December of 2013, I was getting ready to bring out my first album, and I realized somewhere in there that I needed some kind of web presence, so I started a blog and said, yeah, hi, I'm blogging because I'm gigging and that totally freaks me out.
I did a couple like that.
Then I got a little further into what I was doing with the music and decided that if I was going to take my music seriously, I refused to NOT take my writing seriously too. In other words: I wanted to give myself permission to be a serious artist - however that manifested itself - not only a serious singer.
(Sidebar: As I told a friend at church yesterday, the word 'professional' singer / artist scares the bejeebers out of me. Calling myself a 'serious' anything is bad enough without bringing The P Word into the discussion.)
When I started thinking about this blog as something other than a place to A) have a web presence and B) panic about singing gigs, I started thinking about the nature of the discussion I wanted to foment here. At about that time, I attended the C. S. Lewis Foundation's triennial Oxbridge conference (in 2014), and I heard Dr. Diana Pavlac Glyer - author, professor, writer; expert on the Inklings and on creative collaboration - give a lecture on Intellectual Hospitality: the idea of welcoming ideas and viewpoints different from my own. Not just... tolerating them. Welcoming them - and the people who hold them. Masterfully weaving together the works of C. S. Lewis, Dante Alighieri, St. Francis of Assisi, and others, Dr. Glyer offered her listeners the mantra seek first to understand. She described the miraculous outcomes when we offer each other understanding and kindness even when we disagree vehemently about life-and-death issues. And she said that the good stuff - real community; meaningful and nourishing conversations - come about not despite, but because of our differences.
I wanted to do that. I wanted to make space for a conversation like that. A discussion in which anyone could feel welcome to participate regardless of their beliefs or background.
At first, the only way I could think of to do that was to keep my own beliefs almost entirely to myself.
Recently I have begun to realize that this approach isn't working. It feels dishonest. Talking about important subjects like vulnerability and shame and what it means to be human and alive and walking around on this planet without talking about my faith, which is the core of who I am, and the why behind just about everything I do, ends up feeling like I can't talk about anything... or that if I do I have to talk in riddles. So here's me coming out of the beliefs closet: Jesus Christ is my life. Boom.
Most of you reading this already know this about me. But for those of you who didn't know, or who aren't on that page yourselves, the reason I wasn't more open about this before was that I really want YOU to feel welcome here. I want to include you in this conversation. I don't want to create more space where Christians talk only to each other using language that only other Christians understand. What I do want is to make space where humans can help other humans feel less alone. When I personally talk about those things, if I'm being honest, Jesus is going to come up pretty often. Because (understatement of the century alert) Jesus is the biggest reason I don't feel perpetually alone.
You may not be on that page. And some of you may be so far from that page that you may be about one more J-word away from closing your browser on this blog. But before you do: know that I want you here. You are welcome here. Pull up a chair. Kick your shoes off. Wiggle your toes in the carpet. Have a glass of something tasty, and let's talk about life. Life is hard enough without letting intellectual polarization divide us from each other.
And yes. It will be uncomfortable sometimes because we will not agree on everything, and sometimes we will disagree so vehemently that we might have to walk away from certain topics for a while, or hang out in separate rooms for a little bit until the fires of the passions of our beliefs have become slightly less volcanic. But I have come to the conclusion that it is impossible, at least for me, to exercise hospitality - intellectual or otherwise - whilst pretending I don't live anywhere in particular. Having a hospitable conversation is a much bigger deal when we're talking in real terms about matters of substance. Saying what we really think. Sharing our real experiences. Seeing each other as we really are and welcoming each other anyway rather than adopting a polite blindness to our awkward differences and "tolerating" those parts of each other we can't pretend not to see. Letting each other into the places where each of us actually lives.
I live in this particular apartment on this particular street in this particular town. And now you have a basic idea of where that is.
So come on over.
Do you live on the other side of the world?
Come on over. Tell me about where you live.
Gun shy because you've been hurt?
Come on over. (Join the club.) Let me refill your glass.
Maybe from the same city but live in a completely different part of town?
Come on over. Bring bread and wine. Or crackers and juice. Whatever. Just come.
This is the kind of house I want to build. This is the kind of home I want to create. You too?
Come on over.