Marla Saunders

  • Sitting in the backyard watching my house



I sat outside on the hammock tonight, ignoring the incessant clatter of my to-do list. Since launching our new company (have you seen our Visual Creatives website yet? We’re really pleased with it!) these moments have been few and far between. Travel, connecting, doing, creating: these are the new words of my days.

But not tonight.

Tonight I sat and watched the one lone doggy left living in the house. I watched the branches of my favorite tree and realized they were a stage play of birds and squirrels locked in never-ending battle. I listened to the peacocks, haunting, but so familiar. I listened to the people sounds that intruded once in awhile. I sat and I remembered.

I remembered all the nights just like this one. Nights filled with swimming and fence gates swinging, back doors slamming.

It’s just all been so very good.



Just a moment in time… Q LA

Walking home from a film viewing tonight David and I saw a homeless (?) man going through a garbage can on the street corner. He looked pleased as he pulled a book from the trash. It was a Q group study booklet. The title was "Engaging Culture in a Post-Modern World." He put the book in his backpack and wandered off. There was something surreal about the moment. I'm still wondering what he thought about the message of the book.

Q LA Day One

If only you could see me now. I am sitting, staring, watching my computer screen do nothing. My mind looks like it has turned to mush, but it hasn’t. Perhaps a better metaphor would be this: my mind is whirling the multi-colored wheel of overload that you see on your Mac sometimes. In my past experience that wheel of “death” as we call it in our house comes just before a major system shut down. Yes, that’s an accurate metaphor. I’ll need a major system shutdown before long.

Q does that to you.

Today my brain has reengaged with Bobette Buster on the development of story, learned about systems and chaos as applied to artwork, pondered what works of art will be trophies laid down at Jesus feet and learned why the question of same-sex marriage is really the wrong question to be asking in the first place. I’ve learned that more and more people choose “none” to describe their religion of choice, and also learned that as a woman it’s finally appropriate to speak in terms of callings. I’ve pondered mental illness and the role of friendship in overcoming it. And all that before lunch.

I’ve met people transforming culture, transforming poverty, transforming our responses to both culture and poverty. In fact, everyone seems to be transforming something at Q. Perhaps Bobette was right when she said that every good story is about reinvention or redemption.

In the middle of it all, my city was bombed. The spot where I bring my visitors to see the finish line, where we joke about finally crossing the marathon line.

It’s all a little much to process today. So perhaps I won’t. Instead…here you can read some of my favorite quotes from the day.

“At the time of his death, 2/3 of Steve Job’s fortune was made from Story. Silcon Valley was just landfill.” — Bobette Buster

“Art comes from freedom within limits.” — Linnea Spransey

“From an economic standpoint, society can not afford the breakdown of the family.” — Dale Kuehne

“Secrets lose power when they exit the dark.” — Rebekah Lyons

“Story is the most powerful thing we possess. Story leads to awareness. Awareness leads to attitude change. Attitude change leads to action. Never say it’s ‘just an awareness campaign.'” — Jason Russell

“What if what we’ve been led to expect out of life — the New American Dream of realizing perfection — is false? What if the people who told it to us are wrong? Is there more to life?” –Tim Chaddick

“Have we exposed the country to such a weakened virus of Christianity that we’ve vaccinated them instead of infecting them?” — Richard Sterns

“The most dangerous word in the gospel is TODAY.” — Margaret Feinberg

“Go visit the holy sepulcher. But then get out. What are you going to do where He is not?” — Father Elias Chocour

“What if…the church were to participate in the creation of the best of everything? What if….we realized that the future is the integration and coming together of human will and Divine art?” — Erwin McManus

“Realize that others will never care about your vision the same way you do. And that’s OK.” — Brad Lomenick

Why I go to the Q conference

Stay tuned for my updates from the Q conference!

Every year or two David and I drop everything to attend the Q conference. Q stands for Question. And it is, indeed, the questions raised while we are there that keep us coming back year after year.

The conference itself is set up something like a Ted talk, with rapid-fire presentations lasting 18 or 9 minutes. Each presentation relates to one channel of cultural connection (science, education, media, non-profit, church etc.). Some of the presentations make me want to find a rotten tomato and throw it at the person speaking. I have disagreed vehemently with many of the speakers (though rest assured, I’ve never thrown a tomato, rotten or otherwise. Yet.). Other speakers could be speaking my own thoughts out loud, and make me want to stand and cheer. Haven’t done that, either. Yet.

The tension between those two extremes — and the necessity of determining where I fall on the tomato/cheering spectrum — creates an environment of learning and growth which I haven’t found anywhere else. For two days my brain expands in the tension between polarities.

Over the past six years or so nearly every major initiative in David’s and my life together can be traced either directly or indirectly to Q. The people we have met have influenced us unimaginably. Old friendships have rekindled and led to new outreaches for the kingdom. For instance, a rekindled friendship with Kevin Palau has led to an exploration of a Palau festival and outreach in Palm Beach, birthed outside a hotel in Chicago at one Q conference. One year I was thrilled — over the top excited — to meet my hero Bob Goff. I found out he is the hero I thought he was, and in the interim years he has spoken into the Saunders family in so many ways. Many of you reading this are beneficiaries of Bob’s wisdom, though you may not ever know it.

This year David and I launched a digital design team called Visual Creatives. It’s a business we inadvertently began preparing for years ago, at Q, when we sat in on a Bobette Buster seminar and later took an intensive course in NYC sponsored by Q and featuring Bobette’s wisdom shared from years of storytelling.

I honestly could go on and on. Human trafficking, fatherlessness, cultural creation of good things. People, places, ministries, businesses. Books I’ve read by authors I’ve heard. Q has been the genesis of nearly all of them.

I can’t wait to see what this week holds. The only thing I know for sure is that I won’t be the same when I return.

If you want to get a small smattering of Q, I believe there is a live link of Monday morning’s sessions, 9-12 Pacific time. Tune in.

Or join me next year!

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Spring Day

We had a great day wandering through Boston with friends. How is it possible that yesterday was icy cold and we watched the sky for snow? Today was crystal clear and soaring into the 60's. It was perfect. Life is like that, too. We can stand on the pit of despair one minute, and the next minute God shows up. I saw it happen last night for a friend of mine. Resurrection. That's the key.