A Prayer for Musicians and Artists

Autumn in the Ozarks is an exercise in deciphering metaphors. Colors shift, and every tree seems a personification of a different truth. The modesty of the lady maples wanes, green giving way to a more inviting rouge. She mixes her wine for the mighty oak, who's yellowing foliage is not a thing of cowardice, but rather of rarity. Neither saffron nor citrine are native to these hills; the autumnal oak is our gem.

The rivers overflow these days, saturated by the fall rains that wash through the region. The white bass have long-since made their run through the spawning grounds and have returned to deeper waters. The fishermen have moved to deeper waters, too, allowing these banks a sort of reprieve, a Sabbath. The squirrels sense the deepening stillness, and work double-time to gather a winter's worth of acorns, walnuts, and Arkansas hazelnuts. One river's rest is another rodent's work, after all. They gather and gather under the eye of the bald eagle, who wonders whether a juvenile might make easy pickings for its young.

Maybe it's a bold statement, but [tweetherder]autumn seems an evidence of the thinness of the veil between heaven and earth.[/tweetherder] The colorful metaphors show a glory beyond the simple natural order. Here, glory turns and fills; here, it gathers and hunts. Here, it is.

This is my favorite season in the Ozarks. I see God everywhere in it.


Today's piece is inspired by the Prayer for Church Musicians and Artists from the Book of Common Prayer. It reads:

O God, whom saints and angels delight to worship in heaven: Be ever present with your servants who seek through art and music to perfect the praises offered by your people on earth; and grant to them even now glimpses of your beauty, and make them worthy at length to behold it unveiled for evermore; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  *Photo by Bhanu Tadinada, Creative Commons, via Flickr.



Sign up for the Seth Haines' Tiny Letter: A Compendium of Projects, People, Places, and Things. The Tiny Letter is a personal newsletter sent to subscribers once (sometimes twice) a month, and it highlights my personal projects, a few good folks, the places I go, and the things I like. In October's Edition, I'm musing on the tiny acts of neighborliness, a new project, and a tiny prayer. In addition, the good people at Givington's are generously offering a COUPON CODE for a discount on Nish Weiseth's new book, Speak. Don't miss it! (As a bonus, sign up and I'll send you the inaugural edition in which I share some BIG NEWS!)

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Psalm #20 (Genesis)

From time to time I pen my own psalms. Follow the link for the entire corpus (such as it is). And too keep up to date with all of my writings, drop by my Facebook page and give it the old thumbs up. (Thanks!) Today's psalm was inspired in part by the artisans of Tuscany. In the same way, though, it was inspired by the artisans I've encountered in the Ozarks, the Appalachians, and the Mississippi Delta. Enjoy.


Psalm #20

These are imperfect metaphors: the wine-maker in the vineyard, tender with his grapes; the fromagère with aging cheese, gentle in the salty-washing of rind; the leather worker etching a name, shadows past the surface of tanned skin.

These are imperfect metaphors for times more tender, washings more gentle, and hides more etched with words eternal.

Creation creates; the work of hands echoes, "it is good."



*Enjoy a few photos of the artisans of Italy.



Luciana cultivates a vineyard and olive grove on the outskirts of Castelmuzio.


Sandra and her husband Ulysses (you read that correctly) operate a cheese farm on the road from Pienza.


Valerio Truffelli crafts amazing leather goods at Bottega Artigiana del Cuoio in Pienza.


Amber and Erika Morrison ran across this wonderful artist who'd set up shop near a small church in Pienza.

Good Links (The Ring Leader Edition)

I live with some good folks. I wanted to share a photo of two of them. We've come to the end of another week. Do you feel it? Did you make the most of it?

Amber's leaving town this weekend to work on a writing project that's brewing. As much as I miss her when she's gone, I'm excited for her. She has good words percolating. I hope they'll make their way to your hands one day.

Yes, Amber is leaving, which means that I'll go from being a working father, to being the circus ring-leader of my four boys. I have big plans. Legos, man-night, pizza, root beer, movies with Japanese monsters that eat entire buildings in one gulp--we'll do it all.

I'll be occupied, no doubt. But for those of you with less weekend occupation, here are a few links to keep you busy.


This week, Amber describes sisterhood with her yoga instructor. Sure, there was the obligatory comment push-back regarding the eastern origins of yoga, but I reckon we all knew that was coming.

Shawn Smucker penned a beautiful piece for my blog this week. I could not be more humbled that he shared it here. Not only does he personify the corn fields in an incredible way, he deals with the issues of guilt and shame, and does it all with such a light touch. Shawn is the real deal.

Winn Collier dropped a twenty dollar thought in this week's piece entitled "The Good, Small Faith." He writes, "Many insist that Christian maturity means our faith grows larger and larger, but I believe that as we deepen into good life, our faith actually grows smaller and smaller." This is a short piece, but you won't want to miss it.

Sarah Bessey is a brave soul. This week, she asked the question "should an egalitarian attend a complementarian church?" Sweet Bertha. She's asking for it. And her people? They delivered. (See the comments.)


Yesterday, I ran across the wonderful Ann Voskamp's "Occupy Facebook," challenge, wherein she (and others) challenged us to take back Facebook by posting photos of art instead of... say... cats. I opted in, and she assigned me Wifredo Lam--attorney and artist extraordinaire. I posted his photo of Lam's work, "The Jungle."


I co-opted Sarah Markley's Facebook feed, asked her to participate by sharing a piece by Emma Marie Cadwalader Guild. She did. It's called, "Free."



It's been a good month for literary feasting here in the Ozarks. We've had our fair share of sub-freezing temperatures and gale-force winds, so we've hunkered down with good books here in the Haines house. This month, I took down Jeanne Murray Walker's incredible book The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's and Richard Rohr's The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics Saw.

"Although most of the accounts I’ve read about Alzheimer’s are characterized by horror, the truth is, even my mother’s final months were not relentlessly grim. … Watching her was like watching a rowboat come loose and drift away from a dock. I was the one standing on the dock watching the boat glide away." ~Jeanne Murray Walker

"Jesus, as the icon of Christ Consciousness, is the very template of total paradox: human yet divine, heavenly but earthly... [a]nd we have made this momentous and cosmic Christ into the private savior of our personal agendas." ~Richard Rohr

Neither book is what I'd call an easy read, but by-gum, they are solid additions to your library.


For those of you who know me, you know of my fondness for Carl Sandburg. This is a video of his digitized self reading "The People, Yes." I can't stop watching it.



We're all recovering from something. I believe it. Come ye cynics, ye drunkards, ye abused and abusers. Take a listen.

The Girl With The Peony Tattoo

Ownership of cyber real estate has its privileges, among which is affording the owner the right to scrawl about that which he likes most. Granted, if one is attempting to build a steady flow of high-volume internet traffic, it's best to write about provocative things, or things for which one might not care so much, or things that are tricky, or witty, or snarky and such. This inevitably brings the people back for more, so I am told, and I confess that there is a grand and high art to the practice. My artistry in this manner lacks, however.

This being the case, I'm opting for something a bit different, at least for today. Today, I'm stretching into beauty--only beauty.

One thing I know: when you're exploring beauty, it's best to start with the most beautiful thing you know, the measuring stick, if you will. For me, that's an easy call.

amber-tattoo-300x214Yes, that's my wife. I've written about her a lot here. Some may get tired of it, but, again, I'm here to write about that which I like. Among all people, places, and things, I like her best. (Note, I say "like" which is intentional. Anyone can love his wife, but like? Now, that's a gift.)

Today, visit me at Tweetspeak Poetry where I write about Amber's peony tattoo, the way it is a metaphor for her, the way she is a walking poem.

And, as always, thanks for following along with me in this space.

On Writing:Tell it Real

"Are we allowed to write in a way that renders the world as it is, or should we soften it, make it more palatable for our parents, priests, and fellow parishioners?"

Excerpt from today's post for Jennifer Dukes Lee.

This morning, I have the privilege of discussing writing at Jennifer Dukes Lee's place. Jennifer asked me whether I'd consider sharing a piece of writing advice with her readers, and I accepted, knowing that my advice might push us all to the edges of our boxes.

I'll say it simply here: write it real. There is a wide world out there, and if we do not do it the justice of describing it accurately, will our writing be believable? If the writing avoids tension, conflict, or opposing viewpoints, will it resonate with the reader? If we write a world that is completely within the bubble of do-right Christian living, are we minimizing the extent of brokenness here, and the power of the gospel to transform it?

I've tried to employ my own advice in pieces like Bremmer's Loss and Rattlesnake Beans. Amber's Love Songs series is another good representation of writing it real. John Blase does it with poems like "Common Tribe." Emily Weirenga brings it in her book, Chasing Silhouettes. (Speaking of which, Emily's latest piece is a stunning reflection of real writing.)

Are these stories uncomfortable? Sometimes. But so were some of David's Psalms; so were sections of the Gospels. It's that discomfort and tension that makes the stories believable.

Join me at Jennifer's place for a more in depth discussion. And in the comments (here or there), feel free to tell us those writers who you think write it real.

I'll go first: I love me some Flannery O'Connor (here's to you Chris Thornton).