Young artist chronicles a decade of work


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josh-tiessen-a-decade-of-inspiration-coverArtist Josh Tiessen has packed more into his 21 years than some of us have packed into two, three or four times as many.

The Stoney Creek, Ontario resident was born in Russia to missionary parents, moved to Canada and has traveled internationally.

He began creating art as a pre-schooler under the tutelage of his Russian nanny. After moving to Canada, Tiessen, mentored by a retired wildlife and pet portrait artist, created his first significant wildlife work at 10: a chalk portrait of Aslan from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. A year later, “Aslan” and other works were displayed the Artway on Two in Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital.

Tiessen how has a decade of exhibitions under his belt, along with a number of national and international accolades: at 15 he was mentored by esteemed Canadian wildlife artist Robert Bateman in a Master Artist Seminar, at 17 he was the youngest person juried into the International Guild of Realism (IGOR) and at 19 received IGOR’s “Creative Achievement Award.” With these accomplishments and a number of requests from friends and fans, Tiessen has put together and published his first monograph: Josh Tiessen: A Decade of Inspiration.

Josh Tiessen hopes people looking at his art will feel the sense of ‘wonder and awesomeness’ that is in the natural world all around us

About half of the book is an intimate and detailed biography which includes family photos, samples of his early work (including “Aslan”) and photos of Tiessen working at his craft or out in public. While someone might think this would be self-indulgent for a 21 year old, in Tiessens case it isn’t. I’ve had the chance to interview Tiessen on a number of occasions and reading through the book found myself learning even more about his life than I had in the interviews. By the time you’re finished reading these chapters, you find yourself amazed by a competent, intelligent and professional young artist.

The second half of the book chronicles Tiessen’s art from some of his early still life images, beginning wildlife paintings (his specialty) to his latest works which combine realism, fantasy and metaphor. Tiessen accompanies each image with a note about it’s development and, in many cases, the spiritual meaning that can be drawn from it. As he states at one point in the biography:

“Although Josh’s art is not necessarily religious in subject matter, he tries to illustrate the beauty and diversity of creation and the image of God in human creativity. He sees his artistic ability as a gift from God. As a contemporary artist in the 21st century, he would like to be a positive and uplifting presence in the art world. Josh says that he hopes people looking at his art will feel the sense of ‘wonder and awesomeness’ that is in the natural world all around us.

As he begins each painting Josh prays, asking God to work through the process. As a result, just like the little penguin family, metaphorical and spiritual meaning seem to be infused into his paintings and people often comment on the analogies they draw from them.”

While I only had a chance to view an electronic version of Josh Tiessen: A Decade of Excellence, I can only imagine what the print product will look like. I’ve watched, through social media and his e-mail newsletters, the progress of some of Josh’s works. This monograph is a fitting tribute to the life of a young artist who has just begun a lifelong journey.


For more about Josh Tiessen and A Decade of Excellence go to

To listen to the latest Arts Connection interview with Josh Tiessen, go to



The Honour Drum: a children’s book with a grown-up message


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the-honour-drum-cover-tn-jspIn the first two books of the Compassion Series, author Tim Huff looked at homelessness and the disabled. The third book in the series, The Honour Drum, explores Indigenous peoples’ issues and was co-authored with speaker, teacher and singer/songwriter Cheryl Bear.

The pairing of Huff and Bear is neither inconsequential nor accidental. In the introduction they write of their shared values of home, the Creator’s goodness and Canada’s beauty and diversity, but note that:

“The history of our lineages surely tells a different story. The sacred bloodline of an Indigenous woman from Canada’s west coast and the branches of a Toronto-born Anglo-Canadian man’s family tree cross at complex intersections. Canada at-large knows this uneasy kind of reality from east to west, north to south, only too well.”

Out of these shared values and complex intersections, though, comes a beautiful book that uses images, story, commentary and discussion questions to, as the subtitle states, share “the beauty of Canada’s Indigenous People with Children, Families and Classrooms.”

The Honour Drum hits shelves at a critical time in the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.

The Honour Drum hits shelves at a critical time in the relationship between Canada’s Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. Events over the past few years – the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the establishment of the inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and a renewed focus, thanks in part to Gord Downie of the Tragically Hip, on the residential school abuse and runaways issues – have brought the themes presented in The Honour Drum to the forefront of Canadians’ minds.

While classified and promoted as a children’s book, The Honour Drum reaches people of all ages. As Bear and Huff explain in a note to parents and teachers, the book can be approached on a number of levels. An initial reading of the rhyming stanza, accompanied by Huff’s inspired illustrations, introduces the book’s content and themes.

An understanding of the book’s themes is enhanced by the discussion guide and questions which provide depth and context to each stanza. For example, in the discussion guide accompanying the stanza “Pow Wow is a time to gather and meet/To sing and remember, to dance and to eat” readers discover that pow wows are “a time for the communities to gather, sing, dance, socialize and honour and celebrate their cultures.” Discussion questions ask readers What kind of “all are welcome” celebrations they’ve been to.

The Honour Drum is an important and integral book for those Canadians grappling with the issues it raises. As Christians it’s even more important because past actions of those associated with the church have been the source of some of the hurt that needs healing. As I read The Honour Drum and thought about the themes it raised, I became more and more convinced of God’s hand in its collaboration and timing.

Everyone, whether they have children or not, needs to read, study and meditate on The Honour Drum with this question in mind: what is God calling me to do?


For more information about The Honour Drum go to

Enter the Worship Circle brings fresh sound to worship


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down-here-and-up-above-cd-coverEnter the Worship Circle’s new EP, Down Here and Up Above, grew from the seeds planted by two music ministries.

High River, Alberta singer/songwriter Karla Adolphe found herself fatigued after surviving the 2013 flood (which severely damaged their new home), taking care of a growing family and meeting the needs of an expanding music ministry. This led to her taking a break from music as she sought God’s direction.

Enter American singer/songwriter Ben Pasley who Adolphe had worked with as part of a previous version of Enter the Worship Circle. Pasley also found himself searching God’s direction and the path of the pair’s spiritual journey led to a new incarnation of Enter the Worship Circle and an EP of worship songs with their roots in the Psalms.

A fresh sound to worship with songs that have lyrics strongly rooted in scripture

Enter the Worship Circle brings a fresh sound to worship with songs that have lyrics strongly rooted in scripture: “Every knee will bow, every tongue confess, both down here and up above” (“Down Here and Up Above”), “bring the robe and bring the ring” (“Tie Me Down”) and “Every hair on my head a number/You’re counting once again” (“You Will Remember”).

What stands out for me is a theological depth in the lyrics that I often find missing in some of today’s worship songs. “Tear the Veil” talks of the things that get in the way, the noise of the world and the voices “that want to be heard,” all of which prevents us from finding a deeper fellowship, leading to the chorus that expresses a heartfelt cry for intimacy: “Tear the veil, reach on through/Take my hand and lead me to/A quiet place with you.” And that’s only one example of the deep places Pasley and Adolphe plumb in this EP.

Musically, Down Here and Up Above is simple without being simplistic. While instrumental arrangements are bare and laid-back they’re exactly what the songs need. This is refreshing because it means small worship teams won’t feel intimidated in trying to incorporate the songs into their sets

There’s also a freshness to the sometimes raw vocals of Adolphe and Pasley, especially in their harmonies. And for music that was recorded in Pasley’s home studio there’s no lack of quality in the production. In fact, it seems to add an ambience to the EP that would be missing if produced in multi-million dollar facility.

Down Here and Up Above, as a six-song EP, is a treasure. I hope it’s also a harbinger of more to come.


For more about the Down Here and Up Above EP go to: ttp://

To listen to an Arts Connection interview with Enter the Worship Circle’s Karla Adolphe, go to:

“A Secret Music” – a tale of music, mental illness to become a classic


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a-secret-music-cover-515uybx3xl-_sx331_bo1204203200_“Lawrence Nolan decided to become a famous pianist on a bright cold Saturday in March when his fingers ached with pain. He was about to turn six.”

These two sentences, which open Susan Doherty Hannaford’s award-winning novel A Secret Music, takes the reader on a journey with Lawrence as he tries to cope with the pressures of music competitions while staying silent about his personal circumstances.

Set in 1930s Montreal, A Secret Music melds two of Doherty Hannaford’s interests – music and de-stigmatizing mental illness – into a cohesive whole. A musician herself, Doherty Hannaford has also served as a board member of the Royal Conservatory of Music. And, according to a May 9, 2015 Montreal Gazette feature, Doherty Hannaford discovered, while researching the novel, many of the great European composers, “suffered from various aspects of lifelong mental disorders — depression, mania, OCD, even schizophrenia.” (

A Secret Music, transports the reader to a Depression-era Montreal complete with its ethnic and linguistic enclaves.

The book introduces use to Lawrence, a child prodigy, whose music-teacher mother honed his natural gifts. Two key factors see Lawrence introduced to other teachers and, eventually, a prestigious music school. The first, and primary one, is his mother’s illness which, today, would be diagnosed as post-partum depression but is called, at the time, “flattened anxiety.” The second is her recognition her recognition that Lawrence’s talent exceeds her ability to continue to teach him.

For Lawrence, though, the music becomes the doorway to his mother’s attention as she battles with mental illness, often staying in bed for days at a time, neglecting Lawrence and his brother and sister. Other times, music becomes the only solace he has in a private world that seems to be falling apart.

Beautifully written, A Secret Music, transports the reader to a Depression-era Montreal complete with its ethnic and linguistic enclaves. The reader can become invested and involved so deeply in the lives of the characters that when a tragedy hits the Nolan family, the reader will feel just as devastated.

A Secret Music was this year’s winner of Grace Irwin Prize—Canada’s largest literary prize for writers who are Christian – an honour it more than deserves. The book’s intricate plot, more-than-realistic characters and timely message of a better understanding for mental illness will make it a classic.


To listen to an Arts Connection interview with Susan Doherty check:

For more information on A Secret Music or the author:

Singer/songwriter Ali Matthews plumbs the depth of her spiritual experience for new CD


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ali-matthews-so-shall-we-love-cd-cover“I have travelled this road/I have wrestled these fears/I have carried this load/And cried a sea full of tears/Though I may rise, though I may fall/You are my hope, You are my all/Forever this be my song and my story/To God be all of the glory.”

With those touching words, and equally touching keyboard backing, Ali Matthews opens her latest CD: So Shall We Love: Songs of Worship and Faith.

Musically So Shall We Love is a slight departure from Matthews’ previous works, relying more on a ballad style. That’s not to say every song is sombre or slow. An experienced songwriter, Matthews knows how to vary the tempo and timbre of the songs and her ability to match words and music shows a songwriter at the peak of their craft.

Ali Matthews’ ability to match words and music shows a songwriter at the peak of their craft.

On the intro page of the CD’s crowdfunding campaign, Matthews wrote: “My life journey has led me to the top of mountain peaks and the bottom of deepest valleys. Throughout every experience, the glue that kept me together was the ever-constant, faithful presence of God. His grace has blown my heart wide open.” The lyrics of So Shall We Love are a testimony to this:

“I am not my fear/I am not my failure/You tell me that I am a child of grace/Forgiven and loved…” (“Story”)

“Here in the stillness/My heart is at rest/Alone in the silence/That’s where I hear You best/In the rush of the river/Like a song in the breeze/It’s here in the stillness/You speak to me…” (“In the Stillness”)

The two songs which really stand out for me are “We Remember,” which I predict will soon be a standard song used before, during or following communion in many churches, and “I Saw Jesus,” which recounts Matthews’ emotions and experiences during a trip to Ecuador with World Vision.

Matthews also gives her own take on a few traditional songs: “It Is Well” (paired with “No Curse of Life”), “Abide” (which begins with the scratchy, vinyl album sound for the first verse of “Abide With Me”) and “Come Thou Fount.”

In the past, Matthews’ has relied on the strength of her songwriting and simple musical arrangements with a modicum of backing musicians. So Shall We Love producer Andrew Horrocks brings a rich, lush sound to the song arrangements which often feature a host of exceptional musicians, strings and background vocalists. A treat for listeners are the guest musicians Matthews includes: Tim Neufeld (Starfield and Tim Neufeld and the Glory Boys), Jacob Moon, Kevin Pauls, Joel Auge, Dan Macaulay, Matthew Grieve and her daughter, Jo Matthews (on “Love Like You” which they co-wrote).

So Shall We Love is the second CD I’ve heard this year that comes from a musician’s experience of a brokenness which finds solace in God’s grace. Whether this is a trend or not, singer/songwriters seem more willing to plumb the depths of their own spirituality and listeners seem ready to hear about it. No matter where you are on your journey So Shall We Love: Songs of Worship and Faith will be a CD you’ll want to have accompany you the rest of the way.


To listen to the latest Arts Connection interview with Ali Matthews, where she talks about her new CD, go to

For more about Ali Matthews and the So Shall We Love CD, go to

“Kim’s Convenience” successfully makes leap from the stage to television


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kims-convenience-indexKim’s Convenience, playwright and actor Ins Choi’s heartwarming comedy about a Korean immigrant family, made it’s way to television screens via the Toronto Fringe Festival, repeated runs at the Soulpepper Theatre Company and stages across Canada.

The CBC series premiered Tuesday, October 11, one week later than scheduled due to a Toronto Blue Jays wildcard playoff game. But if social media buzz is any indicator, the delay didn’t dampen the anticipation and enthusiasim fans had for the series.

Kim’s Convenience tells the story of Appa (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee), a Korean immigrant who runs a convenience store in Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood. His wife, Umma (Jean Yoon) lends a hand at the store but mainly tries to help her children succeed in life. Janet (Andrea Bang), their daughter, is an arts college student who hopes to become a professional photographer despite her father’s wish that she eventually run the store. An incident when he was a teen means son Jung (Simon Liu) has moved out and father aren’t on speaking terms, despite Umma’s and Janet’s attempts at reconciliation.

The debut episode, “Gay Discount,” highlights one of the series’ main sources of comedy: Appa’s struggle to understand the world in which he lives, in part due to a language barrier and in part due to his own cultural upbringing. The conversation between Appa and business rival, Mr. Chin, about the society’s changing attitudes towards sexuality highlights this.

Kim’s Convenience sees the world through the lens of the Korean immigrant experience – a lens that makes for great comedy and must-see viewing.

The second episode, “Janet’s Photos,” shows the second key source of humour, which no doubt comes from Choi’s own experiences growing up with immigrant parents: the gap between the expectations of the parents and the children. When Jung decide to apply to be the assistant manager at the car rental office where he works, Umma tries to bribe his boss to turn down the application so Jung can pursue a more suitable career.

The main cast, anchored by Lee, is outstanding. Lee has played Appa in every incarnation of Kim’s Convenience since the original Fringe production and it shows. The depth in Lee’s portrayal of Appa comes to the fore in one particular scene: Janet has fooled him into visiting Jung’s workplace. While there, he sees a poster of the staff, in which he sees Jung. With one brief look, viewers see a father’s pride, a longing for reconciliation and a resolution to wait for Jung to make the first move – a look by Lee that sums up the father’s and son’s whole relationship.

Yoon, as Umma, while misguided at times – like trying to convince Janet to find a “cool Christian Korean boyfriend” – cares deeply for her children. Bang’s Janet, wants to respect her parents, while carving her own path in the world. And Liu’s Jung, trapped by his past, is content to enjoy life on his own terms. If there was any flaw in the first two episodes it came from some of the supporting character’s who seemed to lack depth. Hopefully this be resolved as the series progresses.

While Kim’s Convenience is rooted in the immigrant experience, it also seems to transcend that experience. The struggle to understand a changing world and bridge the generation gap are common issues in all cultures. Kim’s Convenience happens to look at it through the lens of the Korean immigrant experience – a lens that makes for great comedy and must-see viewing.


For previous Arts Connection interviews with Ins Choi about the development of Kim’s Convenience check:

Enjoy colouring again while taking a fresh look at your relationship with God


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restore-my-soul-coverThe thought of taking markers, pencil crayons or crayons and colouring a picture manifested flashbacks of elementary school report cards: “Robert must learn to colour within the lines.”

I quickly learned, however, that Restore My Soul: a coloring book Devotional Journey is more about colouring as a spiritual exercise than it is about staying within the lines.

Restore My Soul combines two passions of its creator, Montreal author – and now illustrator – Ann-Margret Hovsepian. In 2006, Hovsepian was part of the team, as editor and conceptual designer, that created Blossom: The Complete New Testament for Girls Biblezine. The success of that project led to three devotionals for teenage girls: The One Year Designer Genes Devo, Truth & Dare: One Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls and Truth, Dare, Double Dare: Another Year of Dynamic Devotions for Girls.

In the meantime, Hovsepian continued to doodle, something she began as a child and writes about in the introduction to Restore My Soul: “When I didn’t have my nose shoved into a book, I drew and doodled and lettered and colored,” She stopped drawing, unless it was for a school assignment or when she was bored. “I still didn’t take art seriously until I started sharing my occasional doodles with friends, who responded with enthusiasm.”

I created Restore My Soul not only to encourage you to fearlessly enjoy coloring again but also to invite you to take a fresh look at your relationship with God… (Ann-Margret Hovsepian)

Those friends, she writes in her blog, “encouraged (me) to get serious about doodling – one of my many hobbies.” But she didn’t want to create just another colouring book. The idea of pairing a devotional with an illustration, and making the act of colouring a spiritual exercise, caught the attention of Tyndale House Publishers.

“I created Restore My Soul not only to encourage you to fearlessly enjoy coloring again but also to invite you to take a fresh look at your relationship with God – or consider the possibility of a relationship if you don’t already know Him personally,” she writes. “My desire is for your soul to be restored as you draw near to Him through the Bible verses, the meditations, the prayer prompts, and, of course, the quiet times you will spend working on the coloring pages.”restore-my-soul-compass

Hovsepian’s drawings range from pictoral depictions, such as the compass on the right (which was the first drawing I coloured). to abstracts. There’s something for everyone, both in the devotional messages and prompts and in the illustrations.

What’s attractive about Restore My Soul is that you don’t have to start at the beginning and work your way to the end. Each devotional and illustration pairing stands on their own, allowing the reader to choose a topic or picture depending on their own spiritual needs.

One piece of advice Hovsepian does offer is: “read the devotional before colouring.” The scripture verse(s), devotional and prompts will provide you with enough spiritual fodder to chew on while colouring. And what’s interesting is, if you’re anything like me, it may take more than one colouring session to complete the drawing. And you may find yourself meditating on an element of the devotional completely different than you did the first time.

As for colouring outside the lines? I don’t worry about it as much any more.


For more about Ann-Margret Hovsepian check

Listen to an Arts Connection interview with Ann-Margret Hovsepian on Monday, October 10 at 9 p.m. ET on 94.3 Faith FM or the simultaneous webcast at

A CD for anyone who has asked God “why?”


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jaylene-johnson-potter-clay-coverAfter a summer hiatus and a busy beginning to fall, the Arts Connection blog is back with a look at Winnipeg singer/songwriter Jaylene Johnson’s new CD Potter & Clay.

While Johnson’s name may not be recognized by some, she’s been writing and recording music since 1999, received five GMA Covenant Award nominations and a Western Canadian Music Award Nomination.

But, since 2004 she’s faced a number of challenges including a head-on accident on the TransCanada Highway and the near-loss of her voice. Potter & Clay puts into song the lessons she’s learned through those trials and tribulations.

Potter & Clay is probably one of the most introspective CDs I’ve heard in recent days.

It’s probably one of the most introspective CDs I’ve heard in recent days, leading off with lyrics like “There are things I’ve done I never should’ve done/Things I’ve said I never should have said” from the lead track “Fallin’.

The introspection continues with songs like “How Long” (“Who led me to this desert/Was it me or was it You/Am I being punished/For what I did or didn’t do”), “Find Us” (“Find us in our failures/Where we’ve been thrown back to the start/Find us as we question/All the things we used to know”) and “Pray, Pray Again” (“Pray when you’re troubled/Pray when you’re tired/Pray when you’re empty/Sad or uninspired”).

But…underlying this introspection, which I suggest will resonate with most, if not all, of the CD’s listeners, Johnson portrays an overarching sense of hope and trust in God: “Fallin’ into the arms of mercy” (“Fallin'”), “I believe that You are faithful/All-knowing and all-wise/I’ve seen Your mercy moving/Through the corners of my life” (“How Long”), “Find us in the shadows/Find us in the dark/Find us in the corners/Where we don’t think You’d ever go” (“Find Us”) and “We don’t know when/But God’s gonna answer/ Pray, pray again” (“Pray, Pray Again”).

Adding to the beauty of Johnson’s lyrics are production values second to none. Johnson co-produced Potter & Clay with Murray Pulver and created a soundscape that varies from the dulcet tones of “One Tiny Prayer,” “Let the Silence Speak” and “Potter & Clay” to the bluegrass tones of “Pray, Pray Again” and the folk/country of “Fallin'” “How Long” and “This Little Light.”

It’s hard to peg Johnson with any one particular musical style. She has a voice that’s easy on the ears, music that will have you tapping your toes one time and reaching for the tissue the next and lyrics that will touch your soul. Potter & Clay is a CD that will resonate with anyone who has, at any point, looked at their life and asked God “why?”


For more information on Jaylene Johnson and the Potter & Clay CD go to

To listen to the Arts Connection interview with Jaylene Johnson go to

“The Lucifer Scroll” a a tale of intrigue with temporal and spiritual battles that transcend time


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Lucifer Scroll - coverWhat do you get when you throw together an investigative reporter, a university professor, a historian, Druids, Nazis, a host of alphabet agencies like the CIA and an ancient sacred artifact?

The Lucifer Scroll – the second book in Midland, Ontario author Barrie Doyle’s The Oak Grove Conspiracies. Doyle’s sequel to The Excalibur Parchment, literally starts with a bang when protagonist Stone Wallace becomes the subject of an assassination attempt.

The suspense continues as readers are taken to Istanbul where historian and archeologist Huw Griffiths, searching through the rubble of a long-forgotten church, discovers clues that may lead to the discovery of the Holy Lance, the spear that pierced Jesus Christ’s side.

Griffiths’ daughter, history professor Myfanwy (Mandy) – who gains an assistant that she doesn’t want – and the two men are drawn into an adventure of intrigue that leads them, individually and together, to Niagara Falls, Georgian Bay, New Mexico, England, Austria and Wales. Along with their allies, the trio find themselves pitted against modern-day Druids and, at one point, Nazis, dodging the real and spiritual weapons aimed at them in the race to find the scroll that will lead to the lance.

Barrie Doyle creates a story where evil is evil, good is good and you have finish the book to find out which wins

I’ve been reading a lot of mystery and suspense novels lately and The Lucifer Scroll was one of the most readable of the bunch (second only to a couple of Ian Rankin novels). The Lucifer Scroll begins with an explosive opening and the action doesn’t let up until the end. Even when Lord Greyfell and his wife, Nees, are brought in to explain the spiritual danger of the Druids, Doyle imbues the expositional material with an urgency reminiscent of Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness.

Like most books in a series, it may help if you’ve read The Excalibur Parchment, especially as it relates to the relationships between Huw and Mandy Griffiths and Stone Wallace. But there’s enough backstory in The Lucifer Scroll that it can be read as a stand-alone book.

What Doyle has excelled at is crafting a tale of intrigue that incorporates temporal and spiritual battles that seem to transcend time. He creates a story where evil is evil, good is good and you have to read to the end of the book to find out whether good or evil wins – even if it means you end up staying up until the wee hours of the night to find out.


To find out more about Barrie Doyle and The Lucifer Scroll head to

To listen to an Arts Connection interview that explores the writing of The Lucifer Scroll head to

Thin tome on preaching has much to say to artists


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Telling the Truth - coverA number of my writer friends have been fans of, or influenced by, the works of Frederick Buechner, an American writer, theologian and Presbyterian minister who has published more than 30 books. I’d yet to dive into Buechner but had him on my someday-read list.

A recent conversation with storyteller Brad Woods prompted me to shift Buechner to my to-read list. Brad and I were talking about a new play I’d been working on and he suggested a read through Telling the Truth: the Gospel as tragedy, comedy and fairy tale would be helpful.

Written to aid preachers, Telling the Truth shows how the gospels “record the tragedy of human failure, the comedy of being loved overwhelmingly by God despite that failure, and the fairy tale of transformation through that love” (from the book’s front cover flap).”

The more I read, the more I realized Telling the Truth had as much to say to me, as a writer, as it did a preacher. The used copy I bought from was already marked in black, so I used a red pen to highlight what struck me as significant, like:

“But to preach the Gospel is not just to tell the truth but to tell the truth in love, and to tell the truth in love means to tell it with concern not only for the truth that is being told but with concern also for the people it is being told to…The preacher must always try to feel what it is like to live inside the skins of the people who he is preaching to, to hear the truth as they hear it.”

Let (the artist) use (art) which (does) not only try to give answers to the questions that we ask…but which help us to hear the questions that we do not have the words for asking…

The further into the book I delved, the more convinced I became that Buechner’s observations applied to all art forms. Writers, painters, sculptors, playwrights, actors, filmmakers, photographers, storytellers, singer/songwriters, etc. all want to share the truth of God’s love as found in the Gospel. Color, palette, imagery, metaphor, simile, realism, character, setting, etc. are the tools used to portray the truth that so many seek. Rephrasing Buechner, we can read:

“Let (the artist) use (art) which (does) not only try to give answers to the questions that we ask or ought to ask but which help us to hear the questions that we do not have the words for asking and to hear the silence that those questions rise out of and the silence that is the answer to those questions. Drawing on nothing fancier than the (art) of (the artist’s) own life, let (the artist) use (art) that help make the surface of our lives transparent to the truth that lies deep within them, which is the wordless truth of who we are and who God is and the Gospel of our meeting.”

Anyone who has read Buechner knows his books aren’t an easy read. I know I’ll find myself returning to Telling the Truth to try to glean a little more from his words. Until then, I take the book’s last paragraph as both a challenge and an encouragement:

“Let the preacher tell the truth. Let him make audible the silence of the news of the world with the sound turned off so that in that silence we can hear the tragic truth of the Gospel, which is that the world where God is absent is a dark and echoing emptiness; and the comic truth of the Gospel, which is that it is into the depths of his absence that God makes himself present in such unlikely ways and to such unlikely people that old Sarah and Abraham and maybe when the time comes even Pilate and Job and Lear and Henry Ward Beecher and you and I laugh till the tears run down our cheeks. And finally let him preach this overwhelming of tragedy by comedy, of darkness by light, of the ordinary by the extraordinary, as the tale that is too good not to be true because to dismiss it as untrue is to dismiss along with it that catch of the breath, that beat and lifting of the heart near to or even accompanied by tears, which I believe is the deepest intuition of truth that we have.”