I’m gonna let it shine


“You are the light of the world.” Matthew 5:14

Folks often ask me what Lumina is all about and why, as professional oboist, I would want to start working around the topics of arts and spirituality at a church. I’ve been reflecting on all we’ve done over the past 2 years—all the artist’s way groups, art loops, book clubs, works of art commissioned and shared, prayers prayed, people seen and (hopefully) heard, deep conversations had—and I’m feeling more blessed than ever by this community that we are forming. 

Here’s an excerpt from our “about” page on the website that I wrote in 2016:

“As a professional oboist, I am always in pursuit of the most beautiful tone. We instrumentalists spend our lives attempting to mimic the human voice, and I must say this is astonishingly simple on some days and perfectly impossible on others. Yet, even when I was only beginning to be serious about practicing oboe, I knew: when the right music, the perfect reed, and the stars aligned the instrument had the capability to soar and sparkle, to speak novels in a single interval, and to be the "refuge" that music could be, as Maya Angelou wrote. This made the tiresome pursuit of beauty easier, because it suddenly involved something outside of myself. What was that mysterious force that seemed to collaborate when all was going well?  Something in it heals and soothes me as I play, perhaps more than any audience member, however evasive it may be.

We artists have this privilege. We stand on the precipice of the mystical.

Some have called this force God. Others call it spirit, flow, Yahweh, muse, inspiration, genius. (One of my students calls it The Force, for you Star Wars fans out there!) My tradition calls it the Holy Spirit. Whatever the name that resonates with you, this Collaborator in our artwork is separate from us, the artist. We can't take all the credit if things go right or the blame if things go wrong! From this place we are free to shine brightly, with a sense of gratitude and wonder. (I am greatly indebted to Elizabeth Gilbert and her amazing TED talk on this subject.)

I fear the average artist today lives as a slave to his or her craft, rather than partaking in a joyful pursuit of that mysterious and elusive force which collaborates with us. I am eager to incubate under the light of it, no matter how different our traditions or language for these spiritual matters may seem.”

If I’m honest, looking back to where we began, it was me who felt like a slave to my craft. Remember: I started the first Artist’s Way group because my creative impulse needed healing. And I must say, incubating under the light of the great Collaborator has left me shining a sympathetic shimmer, as impossible as that seemed at the time.

As I continue to open myself up to all our Artitst God can do—from a simple synchronicity, to big inspiration, forgiveness, healing, and joy—I feel my artistic practice resonating with this pulsating glow, as it starts to align (or realign) with whom I believe God created me to be. And it was exploring all these questions, even—especially—the hard ones, in community with others (i.e. being vulnerable) that has lit and continues to light my artist’s way.

After two years of working with artists of all disciplines, socio-economic backgrounds, and spiritual standpoints, I believe, more than ever, that we artists are a special type of torch carrier, light bearer. We may just light the path for ourselves or a single person for a time or we may use it to expose injustice that lurks deep within the darkness. Even when we experience and consume great art we are contributing to this amazing project of brightening this place up. 

I find myself feeling more privileged than ever to stand on the precipice of the mystical—especially to stand with so many brothers and sisters who carry the torch when my arms are weary, and who, I realize now, are the light of the world. 

I used to feel a little nervous (and to be honest, resentful) about Jesus asking me be the light and to “let my light shine,” like a city on a hill.  “Easy for him to say,” I thought, “Being God and all.” I was forgetting that the Source of that Light was the one providing the energy behind that endeavor, not me. So, just like our creative inspiration, we can’t take credit when we shine brightly or feel like failures when our wick is smoldering. In fact, we can live in God’s promise to never let that flame extinguish (Isaiah 42:3), and take it from me: asking a fellow traveler for a light—if you’re willing to set down your ego and be vulnerable— can lead to a blaze you’ve only ever dreamed of.