A new story idea laps at the edges of my mind. I told my husband, while he dressed as I still lay abed, that right then I was actually working, thinking through details of my newest tale. He stood, staring at me blue-eyed, long enough for my "So, what are you looking at?". He replied, "I'm just watching you work."

The other evening a friend stepped up to say hello after I entered the front hallway at McKenzie Study Center. She gave me a hug and mentioned she'd been thinking about a story I read months ago to our haphazard writing group from church. Finding out she remembered a creative effort of mine started the night off right (especially after I'd spent far too much of my day anxiousizing over whether or not my latest written project might be accepted somewhere). Thanks, Gabe; you probably can't know the encouragement you splashed my direction.

We were at the brick building alternately known as the Study Center, Study Center House or Gutenberg (because it houses people who attend MSC classes and those of Gutenberg College). The evening's event took place in the Puccinelli Gallery, a basement room where many an artist's display has found viewers, college classes have enriched minds of all ages and assorted talents have expressed themselves via music, poetry, drama. I settled into a chair to experience a Gutenberg "open mike night" in conjunction with the institution's week-long annual Summer Institute. As always, I knew anything might happen.

It did. We were treated to guitarists, a banjo and cello player, filmmakers who'd forgotten to set up sound for their short film (and so the audience waited, kept from boredom by occasional callings-out: "Did you hear what happens when two hippies fall in love? It's an organic experience", etc.) and a musician experimenting with electronically-generated sounds played back on cassette and reel-to-reel players (achieving amazingly melodic results). Poets read their own and others' works; a good friend of mine recited hers. Then a young woman, recently graduated in mathematics from MIT, sang the "Tech Fight Song," and I managed to understand a few of the nerdy references involved.

Thunderous applause followed each act. We, the audience, meant it--these guys and women were good. Yet maybe there is such quality emerging, and the emerging qualities are appreciated, because of the kind of community painstakingly planted and nurtured here. The issues chewed over on many different, more serious occasions--and I mean really chewed over--are those arising from a sober grappling with historical texts, predominantly the Bible. Repeatedly these questioners, the radical biblicists I've mentioned before, lift out of the box an understanding of the gospel Jesus preached in order to handle and prod it, lovingly, in honor of its accepted authority, seeking to learn from it rather than use it to bolster acquired assumptions.

I still pinch myself in the midst of this group. These nerdy, artistic, reflective people arrived gift-wrapped on my doorstep one dreary autumn. They remain a vibrant example of God's way: the Creator charts a course least expected; plots a surprise unlooked-for; sets events in motion for the wonderment of his little ones as they discover his boundless generosity.

One act from our talent night soothed my artistic emotions and helped lift me out of self-absorbed funk-ness. McKenzie Stubbert skillfully played piano and sang an original song from his newly-iTunes-available CD, That Is To Say. His "This Isn't It" contains the lyrics:
Do what you want
with what you've got,
but it might not
be what you thought.
Just don't forget, this isn't it.

Treasure I receive from God's hand, whether it's a loving Christian community or an opportunity to set talents on display, ought be enjoyed and accepted as genuine, though temporal, and revealing more about the Giver than about me. Thanks, McKenzie; you may not realize how clearly your tuneful words proclaim.