SONY DSC{By my count, we have just passed the halfway mark of Lent 2017. If I’ve kept up with my own posts, we should be at day 21 now. Here is the 21st mug from the Kellam kitchen cupboard.}

This is one of three mugs that carry the artwork of my grandson Ryan. I wrote about his 2007 mug earlier in this series. Two years later, then, came this interpretation of Atlantis. I assume that he had read a book about the lost continent and was inspired to draw this picture. I love the details I see in it.

And I love that, like our dreams, our art is influenced and shaped by the stuff we live and experience day by day. Ryan read a book, and was inspired to illustrate what his imagination conceived. Pardon the pun, but he drew on his imagination, didn’t he? A song I subconsciously heard during the day, or an ad on a passing truck, or an aroma…a color…a voice — all might be a seed that springs forth in a dream one night. Or, if someone assigned or suggested it, I might use colored pencils to sketch my own Atlantis.

Of course, dreams come to us uninvited or involuntarily. Art is more intentional, unless we are the genius whose muse is so insistent that our hands cannot help but shape the clay or splash colors over canvas. (This reflection of mine is running awfully close to my first Ryan’s mug musing. So, on the cusp of redundancy, I segue to the next paragraph.)

Muse. There is the verb. And there is the goddess. First, the action word, and then the actor. To muse is to be absorbed in thought. The word has a French derivation (“muser”) and the now obsolete meaning is (was?) “to meditate.” The more contemporary meaning is “to waste time.” That is, to trifle. How sad. As a daydreamer from way back, I can identify with that kid in the middle school classroom whose seat was right by the window, the window looking out on springtime, on a warm, sunny day that beckons, invites, or to use another obsolete meaning, beguiles, said child to play hooky at least in his/her mind.

Naturally, the word is akin to “amuse,” to entertain, which is in itself another form of escape (deviation), from that classroom or from life’s routine. The response to being amused is to smile or chuckle (guys chuckle and girls giggle, right?), or laugh aloud at absurdity or irony or silliness that has tickled us. Why do people go to amusement parks? To enjoy a great escape from the ho-hum-drum rhythms of the everyday.

Still, I like the very idea of musing. It is no waste of my time to reflect, or to pause for a few quiet moments, and let some pleasantry restore my soul. I should muse more deeply over these writings. I should spend (or waste — see above) more time thinking before sitting at the computer and pecking at this keyboard. But, there is only so much time, even in Lent, to accomplish this quirky ambition: writing inspired by mugs. So, I guess I could say I am content to depend on The Muse.

We move to the noun. Turns out that in Greek mythology, there were nine muses, goddesses who inspired literature, science, and the arts. When writers say that they are awaiting the muse, they may not be able to name the one of the nine they await (Godot isn’t one of them), but they would be content, I’m sure, for any muse to show up with a plot, the right words, one damned good sentence! The muse who appears transforms blank pages into the great American novel or the deeply satisfying short story or some piece of trashy tripe that the author mistakes for fine literature. If it’s a waste of pulp, blame it on the muse, or on the muse not showing up. If the Nobel or Pulitzer is in view, credit the muse, but only if you are humble. Otherwise, grab the credit and run.

It’s no secret that I am a retired pastor, a preacher who dislikes the very implication of “preaching.” It’s gotten a bad reputation, akin to harangue, droning, moralizing, and pulpit-thumping. Yet, almost every week in my last two churches, I had to preach. I had to redeem that form of speech, so that the Word, the Gospel, would as the old saw goes, “Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” in a loving, faithful, and creative way. Oh, and effective. And while I did “muse” over the ancient texts, I did not wait for or count on any “muse.” That would be a misnomer for the Holy Spirit, which I take far more seriously than a mythic goddess of old.

Some who read this may well consider any religious or theological God-figure “mythic.” But it wasn’t a myth that called me into a life-long commitment to ministry (I could have been a deejay, you know). It wasn’t a myth that showed me authentic life-signs of healing, hope, family, love, peace, and redemption. As a ninth grade kid, I had what I have come to call a “God-consciousness.” I know how weird that sounds. But from that point on, to this moment, I can’t shake this Holy Presence, this Light, this cosmic Christ whose embrace has drawn me into communities of faith that muse and amuse, that serve and salve, that anoint head and heart for something more than daily trifles.

So, I have to assume that anything I’ve written that contained some fragment of truth, some helpful word, or trustworthy comment was inspired, given breath, by the Spirit. And that sentence is written in both humility and gratitude.

Thank God children read books, draw pictures, sing songs, and daydream. Thank God the child in us adults is led to do those same things. I hope that this Lenten day, we can take the time to find a window, look out, and muse. And may the Spirit turn our best daydreams into better days ahead.

 

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