I have been attending Redemption Arcadia since God saved me in 2013 and in that time he has given me a number of opportunities to steward my gifts to love my neighbor, especially the vulnerable. As a volunteer at Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, a commissioner for the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and in my work in Education and Community Engagement for The Phoenix Symphony, I have ample opportunity to take the good gifts that God has given me and steward them in His world.
When considering God’s gifts to me, it’s important to remember just how many things are gifts: musical talent, college education, passion for the arts, opportunity, temperament, personality, life!..all of these and more are gifts that God has granted me and should be humbly and thankfully stewarded in these positions. It’s so easy to lose sight and start to separate my work from my walk, but God has a way of bringing me to himself.
While none of the three organizations I work with would be considered “Christian” organizations, it’s clear how God intends me to live out my faith in each space. In the case of the Commission, I have the opportunity to steward government and grant funding to support artists and arts organizations. With Free Arts, I’m able to spend time directly with children who may not only lack access to the arts, but also to steady adults. Education and Community Engagement at the Symphony has a number of facets, but one of the more incredible programs is the arm of the B# Music Wellness program that brings Symphony musicians out to homeless facilities around Phoenix. In each of these spaces I’m uniquely positioned to help connect people to the arts, even though I’m not directly an artist. Now that I see that I have been bent toward music and put in position to work in the arts the question becomes: Does God care for the arts?
In the garden, God created a world in perfect communion, harmony, and relationship: all of which was broken in the Fall. In so many ways, we all sense that broken communion and seek out community and connection through various expressions. Language, gesture, facial expression, visual arts, and music are just some of the ways we seek to express ourselves and thus connect with others. Each means of expression has value and challenges, but we can use all of them to love our neighbor.
We often think of the music as being transcendent, an “international language,” but it really is more of an alternative language. As with any form of of communication it needs both senders and receivers, and both need to earnestly participate to develop the connection each of us craves when expressing ourselves. Through Free Arts, the Commission, and the Symphony I’m positioned to interact with artists and audiences, children and adults, the affluent and the marginalized, opening ears and enabling alternative means of expression so we can connect with each other, both knowing others better and being known better.
This is the picture of the New Jerusalem that I get to facilitate in my work: We will be fully known and fully loved by God and our neighbors, no longer feeling disconnected, vulnerable, or marginalized. Though all forms of communication are broken in this fallen world, as musicians, artists, and audiences we have the opportunity to express ourselves and be expressed to in a wide variety of ways.
I’m thankful to have the opportunity to write about these things: thankful that I can try to spell out how I steward God’s gifts to love my neighbor as a way of examination and remembering; thankful that I can give to my brothers and sisters - you - that might read this and be encouraged; thankful that I have the opportunity to love my neighbor as I love myself- through the enjoyment of music and the arts.
To paraphrase John Coltrane: “During the year 1957 (2013 for me), I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music (To me, he revealed that he’d been providing the means and privilege my whole life). I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD...This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say "THANK YOU GOD" through our work, even as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor.”