Prince & the Death of Creatives

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life.”

princeI had just walked into the guest room to get the vacuum out of the closet when I received an alert on my phone that a body was found at Prince’s Paisley Park house. Naturally, I clicked the link that confirmed it was the body of Prince. Then I clicked over to Twitter for further confirmation. It was true. Then, almost as if I couldn’t think of anything else to do, I opened YouTube and watched Prince’s incredible guitar playing on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” in 2004 at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony for George Harrison. It still blows me away.

If anyone in this world would live forever, Prince was the one who would do it. There’s something about the way he lived, the way he created, that seemed like he was a spring that would perpetually regenerate from here to eternity.

And yet this news hits hard. There has been an outpouring of tributes on social media (four hours after the news broke, tweets about Prince’s death already numbered in the millions.) As I was scrolling through the different thoughts, it hit me that there are some celebrity deaths that are universally mourned.

For me, it has been people like Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Robin Williams, Philip Seymour Hoffman, David Bowie, and now Prince who, in their death have stirred something up in our broader culture, and in me personally as well. When someone prolifically creative and talented as these artists die, there is a mourning for art that will never be made.

Art connects us to some of our deepest places of pain and sadness. In those pits of despair, art has the ability to help us believe in something beautiful and joyous again. A great album, a favorite film, a painting or book can transport us to another world — one of awe and astonishment.

When we lose that sense of awe, it can be jarring. There are stories of people who don’t leave bed for weeks after their favorite celebrity artist dies. The grief hits us in an intensely personal way.

Psychologist David Kaplan says that when someone who is well-known or admired passes, it creates a desire for connection among people who admired them. He says, “We want to know that we’re not alone. So when I feel sad over a celebrity, I want to know that there are other people also feeling this way. That [connection] is very helpful.”

Every time one of our favorite artists dies, we feel a need for connection. Some of us also feel a need for an outlet — some kind of release from the pent up grief inside. My friend, David Hansen, issued a charge on his social media yesterday that I think is a great exercise for this grief as well.

For Prince. For Bowie. For Michael. For Whitney. For whoever your creative muse is: Go do something creative today. Create something. Use your gifts to bring something new into the world today. Don’t worry about how good it is or if you did it right. Just create. Use your gifts. Then share it with the world.

This is your charge, people. Create something awesome. Then share it. Drop a comment below to share something you’ve created recently. I’ll do the same. Let’s stay connected. Let’s stay creative.


Faith, Writing, and Insane Amounts of Coffee


Listening to Tara Isabella Burton’s presentation at #FFWgr

I have to tell you all about the incredible time I had last week. Every two years, Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan hosts the Festival of Faith + Writing — a conference where readers, writers, and language enthusiasts of all stripes gather to talk about all things faith and writing. There are keynote speakers, panel discussions, poetry readings, and an exhibit hall that will make any bibliophile beam with equal parts excitement and envy. There are just so. many. books.

I’d never been to Grand Rapids before so, naturally, I had to do some prior research on coffee shops to start my mornings. Madcap Coffee is the big name in town, but I loved Rowster and Lightfast Coffee + Art as well.

After being sufficiently caffeinated (and then some), I was so excited to learn and be amazed at the truth, grace, and creativity oozing from every corner of the Calvin College campus — a phrase that is admittedly odd for a Lutheran pastor to write, but I call it like I see it.

Highlights for me were getting to see, hear, and meet Zadie Smith and George Saunders. They are two of my favorite writers and to be able to hear them and learn from them was such a cool experience.

The other incredible highlights were the workshops — particularly my lineup on Friday. I started out with an early morning panel about writing/being prophetic with Drew Hart, Austin Channing, and Aiden Enns. I’ve been reading a lot about race, slavery, stand your ground culture, and have been wrestling with ways to use the space my privilege affords me to work for justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God and my sisters and brothers in Christ. This panel brought up so much for me around truth-telling, naming the lies our culture and privilege tell us, and practices for listening to and writing about these truths and lies in ways that are life-giving for people who are marginalized. I will be forever grateful.

On the drive home on Sunday, I realized that not only am I a better pastor for having been there, but I am a better reader, writer, and person for having shared that space for those days.

A huge blessing of these conferences is all of the conversations and stream of ideas that begin and extend into my everyday life back home. I’m excited to continue these conversations and deepen this learning for the sake of wholeness and life.

Any time you want to talk about this kind of stuff — faith, writing, race, privilege, gender, forgiveness, etc.  — let me know. I’m happy to listen and share in that conversation.

Oh man! I didn’t even get in to how Jeff Chu, Kelly Brown Douglas, and Shane McRae took me to SCHOOL about the nature of forgiveness and reconciliation. That’ll be up next. Until then… Be blessed. And let’s start the countdown until the Festival of Faith + Writing in 2018!


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