Busted Halo
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March 19th, 2005

Busted: Liz Kelly

Author of The Rosary: A Path into Prayer

 
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BH: Did you confront him afterward?

LK: Yes, yes, I did. And that was a very healing thing to do. I didn’t end up pressing charges, just because other women already had. And the damage had already been done by the time I got to the point where I would have been willing to do that. And I was really confused for a while. I was just in shock. I don’t know what else to say. I just kind of checked out and said, ‘That didn’t really happen.’ And you remember that on some level. Especially your body remembers that on some level. Eventually I had to deal with the pain of that situation. I think, if anything, one of the prayers that I’ve learned to pray as I’ve gotten older is that as a young person, sometimes you say, ‘Just don’t let anything bad happen to me. Take this away from me.’ And then I think of what Christ did in Gethsemane: ‘Not my will but, yours be done.’ Sure take this away, if that’s possible, if there’s any other way, take it away, but if not, let’s use it and don’t let it go to waste. And that is the prayer that I really started to apply during the healing process around that particular violation. This thing happened, just don’t let it go to waste, don’t let it go to waste. Boy, I tell you, that is a prayer that God is so willing to answer. It sounds almost bizarre to say it, but I’m almost happy that it has happened because of the fruit that it has borne in my life in terms of helping other women. Showing them that, not only can you be restored, even better. It’s going to be even better. I feel completely comfortable in my sexuality. I don’t have fear, I don’t have nightmares, I feel absolutely no resentment towards this man. I don’t even think about it anymore. And there was a time when I had to consciously pray for him, when I didn’t even mean it, and all of the sudden, I did start to mean it, my heart was filled with compassion for him. I could clearly see that it was not in me. It wasn’t because I was dirty, because I did something wrong. It was just this evil thing that happened. And God was going to use it. He was going to use it powerfully, and it’s made it so much easier for me as other trials and struggles have come along in my life to completely trust. Just completely relax into the arms of Jesus, and know that no matter how painful it is in the short term, in the long term God was going to turn this into gold. In part 1 of our interview with author and jazz singer Liz Kelly, the Minnesota native spoke about her family and her spiritual journey back to her faith in her late 20s–including her painful experience as a rape victim. In part 2, Kelly addresses the authors and artists who have shaped her own work as well as the perils of dating and being a person of faith at Harvard.

BustedHalo: You’ve devoted a lot of your time to music and literature, and it’s interesting that you’re talking about art forms that are not always conducive to orthodox faith. When you’re open to music or literature, clearly you’re open to minds that are very powerful and gifted and inspiring, though their work is not overtly, explicitly religious. I’m interested to hear how you reconcile those two.

Liz Kelly: God blesses whom He blesses, that Miles Davis does not recognize that his genius does not come from himself but from God is his loss; as far as I’m concerned it doesn’t make his music any less inspired. Now there can be evil inspiration too, but I think that you have to look at the fruit of the thing. If you are looking at a painting and it inspires you to contemplating something that is useful to your soul, then great. I think that Madeline L’Engle’s Walking on Water Reflections on Faith and Art is one of my standard go-to books in terms of reconciling the spiritual and creative life, and being creative literally means to take nothing and make something. God is the only one who can do that. The closest we can come to mirroring that process is making children or making art. Even then we’re given the world to work with ideas and things that come from God, so to me it is absolutely a means to divine connection to be in a creative field. Jazz, in particular, unlike classical music where it is performed largely the same way every time. Jazz is not. There is a lot of improvisation, and I think in some ways it’s even more open to hearing from the Holy Spirit and submitting yourself and really moving with Spirit, if you will.

There is evil in the world, so when Flannery O’ Connor’s characters shoot people and kill people mercilessly, that is, in my mind, an opportunity to explore redemption and grace and choices that people make, whether they’re right or wrong, and music can do the same thing. The Bible is filled with murder and infidels and nobody blinks about that. So, I really think that the same kind of opportunity is presented in the arts to expand on the relationship between God and man and also the sometimes-fickle sometimes-heroic heart of man.

BH: Popular culture is such an enormous part of many people’s lives. Some religious people clearly try to shut things out rather than believe that God is in all things. How do you reconcile that with what you do?

LK: I think that that is something that you really have to pray and fast about and get clarity with. For example, about 10 years ago, I got rid of my television; there was no good that was coming into me or my mind through that. It was damaging me. Now, that’s not a choice that everyone needs to make. That was just a choice that I needed to make. I would just sit there and turn it on and it was just blaring away all these advertisements. I got rid of it one Christmas. You know, when all the ads come on for Christmas stuff and I just thought, “My life doesn’t look like a credit card commercial, I don’t want it to look like a credit card commercial, and I’m tired of being told that I need to weigh 100 pounds and look like this and dress like that and own this car and I’m just sick of it. So I got rid of it. And I went through desperate withdrawal for about two weeks and then I realized that I never wanted the thing back. I immediately started publishing again, I was spending less money. I mean it was incredible the effect that removing that instrument from my life had. There were other means by which I could get news, and other things that I needed.

Now when I go into a home there’s a television, I just think, all this crap, and it’s just gotten pornographic over the last 10 years. To hear commercials, and they’re so loud, and music videos, I just thought, I can’t have my little nephews having access to this; it just breaks my heart. So there are some lines to be drawn, but that is up to everybody to do. And there are some people who can have TV and watch Biography and the wonderful things that are on TV or the news or whatever. But even the news, my sister was a television producer. She worked for the major companies that she contracted with were NBC and BBC, and she did a lot of international things as well. I think she had some pieces on like, Nightline and 20/20, is that NBC or ABC, I don’t remember. It just broke her heart. What actually makes it to the news is so far removed from the truth that she couldn’t tolerate it anymore. She also started having little babies and stuff, so she wanted to stay home, but so, I think everybody does need to be very aware and know what their personal weaknesses are, and also, what’s going to be problematic for them. There are movies that I’ve had to walk out of because they were disturbing my spirit.

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The Author : Bill McGarvey
Bill McGarvey is co-author of Busted Halo’s Freshman Survival Guide. Bill was editor-in-chief of Busted Halo for six year. In addition to having written extensively on the topics of culture and faith for NPR, Commonweal, America, The Tablet (in London), Factual (Spain), Time Out New York, and Book magazine, McGarvey is a singer/songwriter whose music has been critically acclaimed by the New York Times, Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, Billboard and Performing Songwriter. You can follow him at his website billmcgarvey.com or on Facebook.com/billmcgarvey
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Frank Kurtz Jr.

    Hello Liz: I purchased your book “The Rosary….” a few years ago and have just finished reading it for a 2nd time. now i use it daily when i pray my rosary to meditate on the mysteries. The actual prayers you included in your book relative to each mystery is so prolific! Where did you get them? Just wanted to write to you. Im a 61 yr old male who has been thru a lot during my lifetime and have found much solace since coming back to my faith! thank you SO much for your inspiration. Your book has had a profound effect on my life. My consecration to Our Blessed Mother has been intensified! God Bless you Liz.

  • Thomas W. Kelly

    Hello Elizabeth. I just completed reading May Crowning/Thomas Merton. Thank you for sharing your journey with such honesty. The book is tremendously inspiring and timely for me. I’ve been a student of Thomas Merton for many years. Mother Teresa: A Smiple Living is very inspiring as well. I look forward to reading your Rosary book. I’m a veteran Jazz Musician…pianist and drummer. I just retired after 42 years as a jazz educator. A priest in NYC told me forty years ago that many jazz musicians speak of God through their music. That has been my experience: especially in Coltranes late music. Again thank you for your wonderful book. Thomas W. Kelly

  • Jim Strasburg

    Hi My mother was Virginia in case your wondering.I love your CD”S I listen to them all the time.Let’s stay in touch
    I live in Yankton,SD.veryeasy to find if youy want to come for a visit last time i seen you when you were in springfeild minn.you were real small then.I I lived in yankton for 12 Years I’m married for my wifes name is Susan all for now
    love your cousin
    Jim & Sue Strasburg.

  • shelly

    i’ve read Liz book 50 reasons…it was really inspiring. just thought today to search about her life and i found this site. i admire her zeal. Wow she’s living a chastise life…something that has been taken for granted nowadays especially in a liberal country.May the holy spirit continue to guide you in your journey and always be a blessing to everyone. Im deeply inspired.Thanks for this site.

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