We are Too Fortunate


This weekend we walked along the rocky coast, a bright sun beginning its journey to set and emerge on the other side of the world. It was so incredibly beautiful. “We are too fortunate!” I thought to myself.

Too fortunate.

The words are not original to me, but they came into my vocabulary a number of years ago through an artist’s pottery shop in the town of Rockport. On this Monday, where my Sabbath rest collides with my daily reality, I want to remind myself of those words “We are too fortunate.”


Travel to the end of Route 128 in the North Shore of Boston and you will end up in Rockport, Massachusetts – a charming town on the rocky Atlantic coast, where art galleries mix with unique shops and beautiful gardens.

Rockport is at the end of the railway line and there is not a better ending to that particular train journey.

Some of the well-known landmarks in the area include Bearskin neck jutting into the sea and the main tourist area of the town and Motif #1, an old fishing shack that is said to be the most painted site in all of the United States;

A number of years ago there was a small pottery shop in town called Too Fortunate Pottery. I first discovered this shop years ago when, wanting to escape the madness of an American mall at Christmastime, my husband and I chose to do all of our Christmas shopping in Rockport. Wandering in to the pottery shop I wanted to stay forever.  The shop was filled with light and creativity. It wasn’t just the pottery itself, beautiful though it was, it was the peace and the space transporting me to a world  beyond my current reality. Perhaps it was the timing since we found this shop in the middle of a critical process of culture-shock, experiencing our first Christmas in ten years in the United States after moving from Cairo.

On one of my future visits to the shop I began speaking with one of the owners.  I asked her about the name of the store. She looked at me, paused, and then replied “One day, as we were working and creating, we looked at each other and realized that we were too fortunate to have this shop and do what we loved all day long. The name came to us that day – Too Fortunate Pottery.”

I have never forgotten this conversation and this window into the creativity and gratefulness of the artists.

Perhaps it’s my limited view, but I see fewer people passionate about their work. I can’t think of many who could put up the sign “Too Fortunate” to describe their life’s work and calling. There are also many who may not be willing to give up their retirement plans, yearly raises, and that critical 2-week vacation that the west understands as the American Dream to do what they are passionate about. For others, it is finances and life circumstances that dictate their work, demanding attention to jobs that are not their life choice.

This is what makes the work of the artist so critical and desperately needed.  Because artists create spaces where the rest of us can relax and enter into places where time doesn’t matter and peace radiates all around.

In the words of another, art becomes essential not decorative* so that we too might consider ourselves too fortunate.

*Bono on The Psalms

This post was revised from one written in 2011. 

Cultural Hope to Living Reality

Wheelchair seating in a theater (i.e. giving a...

The painting was two feet wide and at least three and a half feet long. It hung on a wall in an art gallery, dominant despite sharing the space with several other paintings. While there were others that had caught my eye, this one in particular was striking.

It was a picture of an art gallery with a painting of Jesus on the cross on the central wall. Looking up at the painting, hope and longing pouring from the canvas was a man in a wheelchair. The painting was called “Cultural Hope”.

It was a moment of awe as we in the studio stood, invited in to this private moment between Jesus and a wheelchair-bound man. It was reminiscent of stories long ago where in a crowded room a paralyzed man was healed – only this man was still bound.

I wanted to stand there forever. Was it the longing in the man’s eyes? Was it the distinctive connection between the two. Was it that moment of shared suffering between cross and wheelchair that shouted of pain and only whispered of redemption?

I walked away strangely challenged and moved. While this man’s wheelchair was visual, my wheelchair is in my mind. While his paralysis was obvious, mine is hidden. But I, like the man in the painting, have my times of looking at the cross shouting with pain and hearing only the whisper of redemption.

But the whisper compels me, telling me to wait, reminding me that the cross was replaced by an empty tomb; that my painting goes beyond “cultural hope” to a living reality.

The Little Church Around the Corner

We were walking back from a bookstore in NYC where the motto is “18 miles of books” when our daughter said “I have something special to show you! It’s less  than a block from here.” We had already walked over 45 city blocks on this crisp day after Thanksgiving – what was a half block out of our way?

We took a right on 29th Street just off 5th Avenue and immediately knew this was something special. A beautiful little church sat there – away from crowds and chaos, beautiful and hallowed. We walked into a small sanctuary with old benches facing the cross and altar and beautiful windows and woodwork carvings all around, but there was more. Walking up to the front and taking a sharp left we found ourselves in a tiny chapel, set apart and empty. A prayer kneeler stood at the front with the Book of Common Prayer lying open. Stained glass windows reflected the light offering a glimpse of another world.

It was perfect. As close to perfect as we can find in this world.

Someone had told our daughter about it – said that it was the ideal place to come to sort out thoughts and ask for peace when the city feels too overwhelming, too distracting, too much. She was right. 

It was difficult to remember that the Empire State Building was a block away, that millions of people lived and worked steps from this place, that here in this massive chaos that is New York City there is a place of such visible peace.

When life feels too overwhelming, too distracting, too much —  it’s important to know where to go to sort it all out. When we need to catch a vision and live life above the noise and beyond the crowds, when we need a “slipping away in a boat on the Galilee” moment, where do we go? Can we find a place that offers respite and quiet? A sanctuary where we can hear God?

This is what I long for this season – to find places of quiet that remind me of what Advent is and how I am called to live. A little church around the corner to offer a glimpse of another world. A place and space set apart offering me the eternal even as the temporal calls so insistently.

Today and through this season, may you find your little church around the corner, your space and place of peace that offers you rest and comfort — an invitation to set aside what seems urgent and spend time on what is it important.

Urban (Garbage & Graffiti)

When you live in the city your eyesight changes. What visitors consider ugly and want to avoid, city dwellers often find attractive, interesting, even beautiful.

Urban living reminds me to look for beauty in unexpected places.

This picture posted is called Garbage and Graffiti and is taken by my daughter, Stefanie. With it I ask the question — Where have you found beauty in unlikely spaces?

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And God Said “Tonight I’ll Give Them….Chartreuse”

By the time we reached our favorite rocks the sun was setting over the ocean. The colors looked as if all the blue, purple, green and gold had spilled out across a canvas, blended yet distinct, in a crash of colors. Standing on the rocks we stared, we marveled. There is no way man could create such beauty.

My husband shook his head and looking toward the ocean said “And God said ‘Tonight I’ll give them….. Chartreuse'” We both laughed. It was just like that. As if God had come out with his brushes and in broad strokes painted the sky just for us, deciding on colors at the last minute to surprise and delight.

Of all the analogies that we try to use to help our finite peanut-sized brains grasp the character and person of God, God as artist is my favorite.

An artist that delights in the work of their hands, that paints with broad sweeps and draws with the infinite detail of pen and ink; that uses clay one day, shaping it into pitchers and bowls, and oil the next; that reaches into a never-ending box of brushes and artist supplies and comes up with the newest creative project.

And the grateful audience sits back in awe. Only we aren’t just an audience – we are participants in his creative process, his thoughtful design. We not only long for and appreciate beauty, we love to create it. Beauty nourishes the soul and revives the spirit.

When I doubt the goodness of God I have only to think of the ocean, the waves and the tonight-I’ll-give-them-chartreuse sky.

“Art is as much a necessity for man as eating and drinking. The need for beauty and creation embodying it is inseparable from man, and without it man would perhaps have refused to live in the world. Man craves it, finds and accepts beauty without any conditions just because it is beauty and worships it with veneration…. and it is perhaps in this that the greatest secret of creative art lies, namely that the image of beauty created by art at once becomes something to be worshipped without any conditions…. The need for beauty is felt more strongly when men are at variance with their reality, in a state of disharmony, in conflict, that is to say, when they are most of all alive.” Dostoevsky 

“Cultural Hope”

Wheelchair seating in a theater (i.e. giving a...

The painting was two feet wide and at least three and a half feet long. It hung on a wall in an art gallery, dominant despite sharing the space with several other paintings. While there were others that had caught my eye, this one in particular was striking.

It was a picture of an art gallery with a painting of Jesus on the cross on the central wall. Looking up at the painting, hope and longing pouring from the canvas was a man in a wheelchair. The painting was called “Cultural Hope”.

It was a moment of awe as we in the studio stood, invited in to this private moment between Jesus and a wheelchair-bound man. It was reminiscent of stories long ago where in a crowded room a paralyzed man was healed – only this man was still bound.

I wanted to stand there forever. Was it the longing in the man’s eyes? Was it the distinctive connection between the two. Was it that moment of shared suffering between cross and wheelchair that shouted of pain and only whispered of redemption?

I walked away strangely challenged and moved. While this man’s wheelchair was visual, my wheelchair is in my mind. While his paralysis was obvious, mine is hidden. But I, like the man in the painting, have my times of looking at the cross shouting with pain and hearing only the whisper of redemption.

But the whisper compels me, telling me to wait, reminding me that the cross was replaced by an empty tomb; that my painting goes beyond “cultural hope” to a living reality.

It’s Friday and Anything’s Possible

While Mondays signify the start of a work week in the western world, Fridays signal the beginning of rest and start of a weekend. On Monday tasks often feel overwhelming, the weekend long gone and much to do. Those same tasks on Friday take on a lighter feel and there is a sense that on Friday – anything’s possible!

In the spirit of the possibility and creativity that Friday inspires, todays post is a journey of creativity. In a small moleskin journal, on unlined paper, my daughter Stefanie has created a work of art.  Each of the photos speak for themselves and take you on a journey. Enjoy as you go on a journey through the mind of Stef G and remember that it’s Friday and all things are possible. At the end you may want to warn Mary Engelbreit that she has competition!

All artwork copyright © used with permission from Stefanie Sevim Gardner

The artist (Stef G) and the Blogger (Me)