Tuesday, January 30, 2007

bad Jesus art

You gotta check out this post by the arts pastor at Hope Chapel in Austin, TX...

It reminds me of the following excerpts from my studies:

"Christian art? Art is art, painting is painting; music is music; a story is a story. If it's bad art, it's bad religion, no matter how pious the subject." --L'Engle, Walking on Water

"Aeschylus writes, 'In our sleep, pain that cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart and in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.'

We see that wisdom and that awful grace in the silence of the Pieta, in Gerard Manley Hopkins' poems; in Poulenc's organ concerto, but we do not find it in many places where we would naturally expect to find it. This confusion comes about because much so-called religious art is in fact bad art, and therefore bad religion...Some of those soppy pictures of Jesus, looking like a tubercular, fair-haired, blue-eyed goy, are far more secular than a Picasso mother and child. The Lord Jesus who rules my life is not a sentimental, self-pitying weakling. He was a Jew, a carpenter, and strong. He took into his own heart, for our sakes, that pain which brings wisdom through the awful grace of God." --L'Engle, Walking on Water...

"Stripped of religious and moral values, many contemporary artists who are self-conscious and creative, knowing that they are, but not knowing the why, see themselves as results of a cosmic accident. Much postmodern art, fiction, poetry, music, drama, and film represents the result of this unknowing and the fragmentation, cynicism, and personal chaos that result from it.

The tragedy is that so many Christians , in their revulsion at the perverse aspects of such art, shun all art, even that which may spring from a God-honoring imagination or a Christocentric consciousness. The other 'Christian' alternative is a conservatism that responds only to 'kitsch', a sentimental art of the Hallmark greeting card variety that cheapens true sentiment, turning it into sweetness and light or mere moralistic propaganda -- no teeth, no guts, no muscle, no reality. No real Christianity either, if we consider the Creator's work a our powerful, radical model.

But 'kitsch' is easy. It is as accessible as a Thomas Kinkade painting, and as stereotypical. It is manipulative and narcotic, and by contrast it makes true art seem difficult or complicated. For true art is not all sweet reasonableness. It may project outrage, or make a creative statement as hyperbolic as Jesus' 'if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your right hand causes you tos in, hack it off and throw it away.' Such an image is meant to jolt, to shock, to sting, to push truth into our awareness in ways that show the freshness, originality, and surprise of the Creator." --Luci Shaw, Beauty and the Creative Impulse

Daily Reading from John Eldredge...

If You Knew His Heart Was Good

Everyone has been betrayed by someone, some more profoundly than others. Betrayal is a violation that strikes at the core of our being; to make ourselves vulnerable and entrust our well-being to another, only to be harmed by those on whom our hopes were set, is among the worst pain of human experience.

Sometimes the way God treats us feels like betrayal. We find ourselves in a dangerous world, unable to arrange for the water our thirsty souls so desperately need. Our rope won’t take the bucket to the bottom of the well. We know God has the ability to draw water for us, but oftentimes he won’t. We feel wronged. After all, doesn’t Scripture say that if we have the power to do someone good, we should do it (Prov. 3:27)? So why doesn’t God?

As I spoke with a friend about her painful life, how reckless and unpredictable God seems, she turned and with pleading eyes asked the question we are all asking somewhere deep within: “How can I trust a lover who is so wild?” Indeed, how do we not only trust him, but love him in return? There’s only one possible answer: You could love him if you knew his heart was good.

(The Sacred Romance , 70)

(to subscribe to these Daily Readings, go to www.ransomedheart.org)

Monday, January 29, 2007

new topic...finally!

I want to go here in March 2008!

(this guy is a mentor to me though we've never even met...)

p.s.--i know, i know -- i'm NOT a pastor! (only a minor detail)

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

did anyone notice the word 'sickness'?!?!

well, it's official -- you all are no help to me at all!

I'm like the proverbial drowning woman and instead of throwing me a line, you all threw me a bottle of water!

"Get the cricket," you said.

Get the cricket!

Now how am I gonna....

...mic a cricket?!?

Monday, January 22, 2007

day off from depth...

thanks to burningalive for my post title for today!

i realized recently when someone asked me what i did to rest that i had gotten sloppy in my rest habits! i might physically rest but am lousy in the mental rest department. so, this day off, i committed to myself and my husband (God bless him) that i would refuse to entertain any thoughts about work. it was a little bit hard at first, but i got kinda good at it after awhile.

i took a great nap, watched that most-chickest-of-all-chick-flicks, The Notebook and read (get this) The Cricket in Times Square (didn't have any lighthearted books in my own stack to choose from for my day off from depth...had to borrow from the kids!) What a great little story that is about a country-cricket-from-Connecticut who gets hijacked in a picnic basket to the subway station in Times Square. He discovers he possesses greatness in his music and still chooses to play for the willows and the hedgehogs in the Connecticut meadows instead of the teeming masses in the Big Apple.

I realize i am fighting a sickness when, upon closing the book, i begin to think how cool it would be to have Chester the Cricket play a hymn for us at church some Sunday morning. : )

I'll leave with you my favorite quote from the book (which is illustrated by Garth Williams of Little House fame, by the way...one of my favorite illustrators ever) --

" 'I guess I'm just feeling Septemberish,' sighed Chester. 'It's getting towards Autumn now. And it's so pretty up in Connecticut. All the trees change color. The days get very clear - with a little smoke on the horizon from burning leaves. Pumpkins begin to come out.' "

Friday, January 19, 2007

hard week

i am tired

(that's all i've got for today)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

more from Romans

Romans 3: 27ish-31ish
What we've learned is this: God does not respond to what we do; we respond to what God does. We've finally figured it out. Our lives get in step with God and all others by letting him set the pace, not by proudly or anxiously trying to run the parade.

...God sets right all who welcome his action and enter into it, both those who follow our religious system and those who have never heard of our religion.

But by shifting our focus from what we do to what God does, don't we cancel out all our careful keeping of the rules and ways God commanded? Not at all. What happens, in fact, is that by putting that entire way of life in its proper place, we confirm it.

God, please help me to stop trying to earn the favor that you have already lavished on me.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

i am humbled

...I think it is more than mere coincidence that at the same time we are having these High Church discussions, God led me to read through Romans and sent the movie Luther into my mailbox (via Netflix) today.... (i did not plan a single one of those things to coincide)

God must be merciful...

Monday, January 15, 2007

worship is a verb...

"The focus of worship is not human experience, not a lecture, not entertainment, but Jesus Christ - his life, death and resurrection."
-- Robert Webber, Worship is a Verb

notes on my studies...

Sitting at the dining room table, listening to Vince Gill on my ipod and studying the writings of an expert in the field of Ancient-Future worship (his phrase), Robert Webber...it occurs to me that so much of what we say is our musical/artistic preference does not have as much to do with our spiritual hearts and more to do with our physical experiences...

in other words, as i'm studying different traditions i can picture those of my friends who labor in the ministry of leading worship reflecting their heart for God and their spiritual gifts in totally different ways than their current preferences demonstrate....

the vote has been counted...

...and it's a resounding lack of direction! So, being the diplomat that I am, I'm going to post on both topics (i'd make a great politician, huh?)


You probably had to be there.

Our service planning team gathered last Wednesday for an Easter Design meeting. Our pastors had requested we research ways to incorporate some aspects of a High Church/liturgical worship service into our Easter services. Now, I'm new to leading this group and what I expected to get pushback on were the style issues: organ music, old hymns, stained glass art (we're pretty contemporary in our music preferences in this group...not necessarily modern, but contemporary; if you polled us privately you'd probably discover a whole lot of the greatest hits from Chicago and Aerosmith and James Taylor hiding in our ipod playlists! and don't you dare tell anyone that my favorite song of all time is sung by Rupert Holmes!)

ANYWAY...chalk it up to inexperience, but I was totally taken off guard at the passionate response not to the style of service, but to the association with anything High Church. Even though all the research I had done prior to the meeting was from Episcopal and Lutheran churches, those who had been misled by their Catholic upbringing were not interested in borrowing any tradition or liturgy that might remind them of the experience.

It was pretty short-sighted of me to not plan for this since I have a similar reaction to anything that smacks of 1970's Baptist Church (in case you are wondering, a worship service planned around this feel would include a lot of plaid polyester and culottes and American flags for the bicentennial celebrations as well as a healthy dose of altar calls for people to pray the sinner's prayer so that they could be sure to wind up in heaven when they die; also the bulletin would include a list of other ministries to avoid because of their association with charismatic churches. To this day I refuse to call a "church family get-together" a potluck fellowship! And this doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about the 1980s Baptist church...).

This is going to be a great ongoing discussion for us. I'll post the content of a follow-up email I sent to the service planning team in case you are interested in how I equate a Union Center Easter service using liturgy to a Christmas dinner with Brian's family.


I read through the whole book in three sittings. I can't recommend this kind of Bible reading enough...it has deepened my understanding of both Acts and Romans in a big, big way. When I read large portions in a sitting I feel like I get to know the author behind the writing so much more. It's harder to take verses out of context and it's harder to feel numb to amazing truths just because I've happened to hear them recited a million times in my life. When I'm reading this way, I have the feeling of a person who is just hearing the story for the first time. It's a feeling of 'you've-got-to-be-kidding-me-this-is-way-too-good-to-be-true-i-want-to-follow-jesus-sign-me-up!' The whole story of the gospel is so much more obvious to me this way.

So, over the next few posts, I'll write a few of my favorite verses -- seen in technicolor this time around: Romans 4:2-8 -- (from The Message; all italics are mine)

If Abraham, by what he did for God got God to approve him, he could certainly have taken credit for it. But the story we're given is a God-story, not an Abraham-story. What we read in Scripture is, 'Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own.

If you're a hard worker and do a good job you deserve your pay; we don't call your wages a gift! But if you see the job is too big for you, that it's something only God can do, and you trust him to do it - you could never do it for yourself no matter how hard and long you worked -- well, that trusting-him-to-do-it is what gets you set right with God, by God.

Sheer gift.

David confirms this way of looking at it, saying that the one who trusts God to do the putting-everything-right without insisting on having a say in it is one fortunate man:

Fortunate those whose crimes are carted off,
whose sins are wiped
clean from the slate.
Fortunate the person against
whom the Lord
does not keep score.

Now, don't you want to follow a God like that?

(me too...)

And, lastly, on a NEW TOPIC:

Brian and I ordered the movie Crash from Netflix and watched it Saturday night. (hard to watch, but revealing of the depravity of man) And I believe it was providential that when we turned off the movie, already feeling sober and repentant, the TV channel we turned to was playing a documentary of the life and death of Dr. King. May God bless today those who have committed their lives to fighting the status quo of greed and corruption on behalf of those who could not speak for themselves. I will become a more mature believer when I understand how this applies to my personal daily choices. I am praying for this to happen for me soon.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

so much to write about and so little time...

I'm excited about another new friend on the blogging block...welcome zephaniah317! This getting fun...

So, I'm supposed to be headed out the door for work and am instead sitting here blogging...is that a sign of a problem? I just can't decide what to post today. I've got some great stuff I read in Romans (along the lines of the Acts learnings) OR I could talk about the very passionate discussion our service planning team had yesterday about 'high church', liturgy, stale ritual vs. life-giving tradition.

Can I take a vote? What would you like to hear??

In the meantime, I need to get to work! I'll leave with this thought from Romans 3:23ish - 26ish (the Message)

Since we've compiled this long and sorry record as sinners...and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, GOD DID IT FOR US!!! (yipppeeee!)
Out of sheer generosity he puts us in right standing with himself.

A pure gift.

He got us out of the mess we're in and restored us to where he always wantes us to be. And he did it by the means of Jesus Christ... This is...NOW -- this is current history.

God sets things right.

He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.

YAY, GOD!!! I am forever grateful....

Monday, January 08, 2007

it's not linear...it's story

For the longest time I've been meaning to read through the book of Acts. In all my years of attending Christian school and going to church I've spent hardly any time in Acts (except for that infamous chapter 2)

I've learned that I learn things the best in big chunks. I'm a concept person. I am not one of those people who can take one word or one thought or phrase and ponder it and pull deep meaning from it (this is why I'll never be able to write a novel--great novel writers create story from the tiniest detail) so I sat down toward the end of the Christmas vacation and pulled out my parallel Message/NASB and started reading Acts straight through. I gotta admit....I started feeling a little bit disappointed. I think I was hoping for an annointed listing of 'how-to's' -- a great formula for how to work in church ministry and be an all-around-great-Christian.

That's not what I found.
(here's some thoughts from my journal on the subject...)

"...read through the book of Acts this week--pretty fascinating stuff. Donald Miller is right -- there are NO formulas! Even the basic way that people received the Holy Spirit was different. Sometimes they walked away from a talk with an apostle 'persuaded'; other times they needed a couple of actual, physical touches from several of the apostles before they received the Holy Spirit. Amazing...

In fact, I could understand how different denominations can walk away from reading this book believing that certain spiritual exercises are non-negotiable experiences of the Christian walk. (i.e., speaking in tongues, the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a separate encounter, the 'sinner's prayer') I can see how that might happen, except for the fact that no two spiritual encounters appeared to be alike outside of the basic message of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. So I can see how churches might walk away with those thoughts, but then again I really can't.

I am impressed -- albeit, somewhat frustrated by God's insistence on not being put into a box or formula or - even - His own spoken laws! It's crazy...insane! This is a part of God that makes me head over heels in love with Him and mad at Him at the same time!

I want to live with the freedom of my God and the practical daily wisdom of Peter, Paul and the other apostles and church disciples in the book of Acts. To take each phase of life, commitment -even individual moments - into loosely-cupped hands. No grasping or clawing. Head held high in the presence of prisoners and kings alike. The simple message of Jesus' gospel and the way it invaded my life always on my lips...not contrived, not jammed down people's throats, not hidden behind apologetic stammering. Respectful. Diplomatic. Timely.

Happy New Year, everyone!

In case you are wondering...here's what Don Miller says about looking for formula in Scripture.
"You would think some of the writers of the Bible would have gone to a Christian writers seminar to learn the magical formulas about how to dangle a carrot in front of a rabbit, but they didn't. Instead, the writers of the Bible tell a lot of stories and account for a lot of history, write down a lot of poems and recite a great deal of boring numbers and then conclude with various creepy hallucinations that, in some mysterious way, explain the future, in which, apparently, we all slip into Dungeons and Dragons outfits and fight the giant frog people. I forget how it goes exactly, and I mean no disrespect. But because it is so scatterbrained, and has virtually no charts and graphs, I am actually quite surprised the Bible sells.

Friday, January 05, 2007

back in the saddle again...

wow...the time went by and i never intended to be gone for so long! i think part of the problem is that i left with some kind of half-baked commitment to returning with a big, 'best of' blog. way too intimidating! so, for now, i'm back and looking forward to catching up with all of my blogging buddies....including the new family on the block... the Rice Family. Welcome to the neighborhood!

i'll be back again soon...
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