Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Blogging from Brooklyn--Hilary Rushford

I have known Hilary for years. Her dad is an iconic presence at Pepperdine University where ZOE has sung on many occasions. Hilary's heart beats for Jesus and in the years I've known her, that has only deepened. One thing she said to me after asking her to be a part of this series was,
"I never want to make someone feel their life could have been bigger or better if they had moved to the city/pursued their dream/etc. I'm also very conscious of how many people pursue dreams and don't have paths of success/fame, so I think it can be dangerous to speak to a broad audience about how or why God provided that success for me and risk implying that if only someone had had more courage/faith/patience God too would have "rewarded" them."
I could not agree more. I personally was never a fan of the whole prayer of Jabez mania. It's a tricky deal because I do believe God loves us entirely and WANTS to bless us. But when we feel like we're entitled to blessing just because we believe in Him I think we step into dangerous territory. If anything, we've been promised TROUBLE in this life because of following Jesus. But as in the case of our forefathers and mothers like Moses, Abraham, Joseph and Esther, sometimes God puts people in positions of power or influence "for such a time as this". This is one reason I wanted to highlight these men and women...to show that there are agents of Light walking among us--even in dark places. I know I can speak for each of them in saying they all take each day as a gift from God and as an opportunity to be His instrument. Hilary--God is using you for such a time as this. Thank you for allowing Him to and for being a great friend and sister to me.

My first professional job in the original cast of the 1st National Tour of
“42nd Street”
when we played the Ahmanson in Los Angeles

This year I played a dream role starring as Jeanne Coyne in the east coast debut of “What A Glorious Feeling”
I never intended to be a professional actor. God opened a door I'd never dreamed to knock on straight out of college with the Broadway tour of "42nd Street," which led to "The Rockettes," which led to New York City, where I now know I was meant to root my heart. I’ve been blessed to perform and choreograph here, to have health insurance from the very thing that makes my soul most delighted (which usually involves wearing my tap shoes). "Artist" turned out to be my career, though it’s also simply who I am. When I think about "faith and the arts" or "being a Christian artist" ... I get stuck. Yes, I'm a Christian. Yes, I'm a professional artist. But to me there doesn't seem any more correlation or challenge than if I were a Christian lawyer or software developer.

What I’m fascinated and inspired by lately is not how we're artists in our profession (those of us blessed to say that) or artists in formal ministry (i.e. worship leader) but how we're redefining what it means to be in artistic ministry in unconventional ways. Truman Capote said, "I live in Brooklyn. By choice. Those ignorant of its allures are entitled to wonder why." I too live in Brooklyn and am smitten with its allures. That is due in large part to my church community here – primarily a tribe of remarkable artists.

Dana is a graphic designer and exceptionally talented illustrator. She has her dream job at a boutique firm working with the best in her industry. Dana also loves people well.  She champions my best friend Kristen and I in our heart for hospitality, a heart sometimes expressed in the themed costume parties we’ve become known for. 
Dana Tanamachi in front of one of the backdrops she created for us

Dana creates gorgeous hand-lettered backdrops on our chalkboard wall. They've in essence branded our parties and we're always telling new people who see them online that they’re welcome at the next one. They have also made Dana blow-up on the interior design blogosphere. Martha Stewart Weddings, Design Sponge -- all the biggest places to get a write up have featured our kitchen & Dana's talent. But all the attention & requests that flooded her way actually weren't what Dana desired. She already has her dream job and doesn’t want to give up Life Groups & neighborhood dinners to pick up extra jobs. Dana doesn’t share her talent with us for income, networking or exposure. She shares her gift as a way to support our ministry of hospitality and thereby use her talent as a ministry too.
Gentlemen friends at our Christmas party
Hilary (“Alice” with the flower), Kristen (“Red Queen”) at our joint Un-Birthday party with adorable Tweedles Dee & Dum
Then there’s Brian. Growing up in the Church of Christ I have a deep love for acapella worship, but I also love our instrumental worship team at Trinity Grace Church. When Brian plays the cello my heart rises up in my chest, as do the little hairs on my arms. Brian played for our church for years —all the while not believing in God. It was an honest paycheck for a musician. He poured out his love for the instrument, staring back at a sea of people pouring out their love for God. But he wasn't there as a Christian artist. He was there as a professional artist, and an atheist at that. Then Brian discovered God.

Brian Sanders & my new favorite instrument  the cello.
Brian also happens to have only a thumb and one finger on his right hand. Why does God create some babies with the 10 fingers and toes we innocuously proclaim as so important at birth, and then a few are not? Surely his parents experienced sorrow at this. Surely Brian experienced moments of frustration at things he couldn't do or the stares of strangers. But Brian will humbly tell you that he is an exceptional cello player because of his uniquely crafted hand. He says with a shrug, "I have a superior sound to other people. I'm not being conceited. It's not me. I didn't design the hand. This is what God gave me." God created Brian to be an artist. He tucked the soul of a cellist into an improbable package and then called Brian into ministry even when he wasn't a believer himself.

In February I put on a one-woman-show for my 7-year-anniversary in NYC. It was born out of a natural selfish desire as an artist: I wanted to create. However, as I reflect on a sea of smiling faces from that night and the “thank yous” that followed, I realize that to share our talents is to be generous if we have the patience to hone our craft and the courage to put it out there.

The promo card for my show “The 7 Year Itch”

With Late Night with Jimmy Fallon writer, Cory Cavin, re-enacting the story of our awkward 1st kiss
Now that the show is done I’m onto my next creative venture, starting my own business as a stylist. For years I’ve managed to get complimented on my style on a starving artist’s budget. So now I help people represent themselves for the job or relationship they desire with out acquiring more things or straining their budget. When I'm in the audition holding room, living in a different state with a new cast, or listening to a client’s physical insecurities -- I'm clearly in ministry, representing God because I said that "church" word in what I did last weekend. So I’m an artist. And a Christian. And my guess is if you’re reading Brandon’s blog, you probably are too.

Regardless of the setting, title or paycheck, what we're doing in Brooklyn is collaborating and acting outside the box. The majority of our church body actually are professional artists: graphic designers, photographers, writers. And yet God is moving among us in unconventional ways. He's calling us to share our gifts to launch one another's careers, confidence and ministries. He’s using us in ministry even when we don’t realize it at first. And in response what I pray we're doing is creating providence: making space for God to move.

If by chance you're thinking "if only I lived in a big city, was a professional artist, were surrounded by that culture" – we all create providence where we’re at. Pursue the creativity you love & ask God to use it. Disregard the paycheck, title or formal ministry. Believe throwing theme costume parties can be a spiritual gift! And know that you're welcome to come soak up some of our creative energy in home sweet Brooklyn anytime.
Our well-dressed guests at the Mad Men Holiday Soiree
The cast & company of “The 7 Year Itch” after the show
See Dana’s gorgeous work at www.danatanamachi.com

Read Brian’s eloquent journey in faith at http://briansanderscello.blogspot.com

Find Hilary on Twitter/Facebook @HilaryRushford, www.hilaryrushford.com and follow her blog at http://www.deanstreetsociety.com/ as she becomes an entrepreneur, shares video from her cabaret and creates some providence!


Ginger said...

This is one of my favorite guest blog posts! I love the message, the tone, everything. Thank you, Hillary, for stepping up and sharing your hear with us!

annie said...

It really IS a small world. Our son & DIL moved to Brooklyn in August, & worship at Trinity Grace! Alex arrives at the bldg. every Sunday at 2 to work on sound for the worship time. He & Krista LOVE their lifegroup there, & though I don't think they're in Hilary's, I feel sure they have some of the same friends. They love Brooklyn too, & live in a great little neighborhood. I can't wait to tell them about this post. They feel just as Hilary does---your ministry is with you where you are, everyday, whatever you're involved in.