A couple of days ago I got to see a few of my favorite artists arting live and in person on the first stop of the Love Tells the Story tour. Sandra McCracken, Derek Webb, the Robbie Seay Band, and Donald Miller are currently traveling together, and their show is quite unlike any I’ve been to before. Lots of back and forth between the artists, a Q & A time of interaction with the audience, everything interspersed with commentary by Miller. The whole thing felt more like a group conversation than a concert—and they were so obviously having fun being on stage together, which drew the audience in to the community atmosphere of the evening even more.
As the name of the tour suggests, love was the predominant theme of the stories told in song and word. And I was moved and blessed by these expressions of love, whether romantic love or God’s love for us messed up people or our love for Him. But for me, the show also spoke to my artist heart in a way that no live performance ever has, and I felt truly built up by seeing these guys perform together and hearing them talk about their experiences as artists who are followers of Jesus.
Sandra McCracken has been one of my favorite singer-songwriters for a few years now—her songs speak so deeply to the places I’ve been emotionally, and she is amazingly gifted at writing both lyrics and music. During the show, she talked about getting started in songwriting and how it was difficult at first to find her place because, as she described it, her songs are “too spiritual for some venues, but not spiritual enough for others.” That’s the same way I view myself as a writer, so to hear her express her own struggles helped me remember that I’m not alone in this journey of trying to figure myself out as an artist who loves Jesus but doesn’t necessarily write about Him and Him alone.
Derek Webb said it even more directly. I swear he was looking right at me when he said it. “If you’re here and you’re an artist who is a follower of Jesus, you can make art about anything that Jesus is Lord of. And He is Lord of all.” So, since Derek Webb said it, I have permission to write stories about girls growing up in villages in Asia or picking raspberries or climbing a mountain, and not feel guilty that the way I tell my stories might not fit what is expected of me.
These singers and writers have blazed a trail that makes it easier for someone like me to show up in the writing world and find a place that’s already established for artists who don’t want to be labeled or pinned down by the expectations of certain audiences. (Donald Miller very literally has done just that with Burnside Writers Collective.) They feel like mentors to me, even though they don’t know me and I’ve not spoken in person to them, and my experience at Love Tells the Story was one of receiving wise advice from those who have gone before me. I’m still trying to figure out who I am as a writer and who my audience even is—I’m glad to have the freedom to stumble around and try different things out and learn as I go. The creative process is just as meaningful for me as I hope the end result will be for my audience. Whoever they are.
(I’ll be out of town for a few days visiting friends and won’t be updating the blog. See you when I’m back online.)