Image“[T.S.] Eliot began to wonder if there was any room for art in a world gone mad. How could a responsible Christian devote time to poetry or fiction?” Philip Yancy (I Was Just Wondering, 130)

I grew up wondering why secular music was so much cooler than the Christian stuff. I couldn’t figure out why the Red Hot Chili Peppers were so good and Deleriou5 was just ok. (Don’t judge, it was the 90’s.) I thought, if we’re so connected to The Creator, why don’t we make better music?

As I got older I saw this in other mediums, too. Classical religious art notwithstanding, Christian art always seems to fall short. As Christians, shouldn’t we be more plugged into The Creator? Shouldn’t my faith make me a better artist?

According to Philip Yancy, T.S. Eliot was driven to conversion over anxiety over the future. Many complained that his conversion ruined his writing, that it “lacked the depth and genius of [his] early works”. (Yancy,130) He accepted writing assignments from the church, wrote captions for war photos, and for awhile turned totally away from writing to work in economics.

“He had apparently lost faith in the power of art.” (Yancy, 131)

What Christian believes in the power of art? Not many. We believe in being useful, in helping, in spreading the Gospel, feeding the hungry, being contributing members of society. (Whether we do it is another story.) But what worthwhile Christian holes up in a studio writing poetry, sculpting, painting, or composing photos?

When I got home from Haiti I was all rip-roarin’ to go save the world, and I am so glad God stopped me in my tracks. In that time I forgot the power of art, and in my recovery from the issues that spawned from my time in that devastated land I learned the healing power of art.

So I am going to say it: I am an artist. It is a gift from God and I should not hide it under a bushel, as they say. The more immersed in art I get in school, the happier and more myself I feel. And you know, we’re one body with many parts. We’ve all grown up hearing that, but suddenly it makes so much more sense to me. I can’t be everything, and I shouldn’t be.

So here’s to being as good as, if not better than, the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

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How He Loves…

I had been home from Haiti only a couple weeks. I was stage left waiting to go up and share about my experience with the congregation. Everything was fresh. Raw. I didn’t know where I was or where it would take me, but I knew I was deep. Deep in the inexpressible.

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree

The opening lines. I had heard this song before, but I couldn’t make a connection.

Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy

It was dark and the lights were bright. I was wearing a teal sweater and my senses were overwhelmed. I was in another world far, far away from the tents in Haiti.

When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realise just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And suddenly I am tapped in. I am feeling. I don’t know what I am feeling or where it is going to take me, but it’s cathartic. I’m getting it out.

And oh, how He loves us so,
Oh how He loves us,
How He loves us all

It’s like this song is a key to what’s locked inside. I don’t know how to get to it. I still don’t know what all I am dealing with since Haiti. I am still a mess about it all. It’s been several months now, and it still feels fresh. I still can’t reconsile the things I saw there. The places I went. The people I met. They are still there. They are still hurting and hungry and dying. But He loves us?

We are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.

And every time this song plays I am back in the dark wearing my teal cardigan. I am fresh off the mission field and I am as lost as ever. Somewhere there is grace and mercy and all I can do is sink in it. Let it wash over me. Find the place of trust and know that God knows what He is doing. And let it out.

So Heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about, the way that He loves us

I feel this. My heart is violent. Life doesn’t make sense. I live in a mansion (practically), I have too much to eat and two sources of income… my friends in Haiti are starving and live in tents (and I use the term very loosely). But. When I think about how He loves us and what really matters in the scheme of things… it really is true. I don’t have time to maintain these regrets when I think about the way that He loves us. US. All of us. The Haitians. He died for them. He loves Marjolene and Jhonnyka more than I ever can.

That’s the thing to do, then. The prize to keep my eyes fixed on: how He loves us.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.       2 Corinthians 4:16-18

And with that I leave you. Mull that over and let’s get this Lent season rolling.

 

Editorial: Hot & Dangerous

Hot and Dangerous

If you’re one of us, then roll with us


Cause we make the hipsters fall in love

We runin’ this town just like a club

And no you don’t want to mess with us

Got Jesus on my necklace

You know we’re superstars

 

Model: Brianna Scheff

Hair & Makeup: Hair & Makeup by Brianna Scheff

Styling: Casey & Brianna

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen

The Wounded Healer. I like that. I identify with that.

In our last Bible study book, The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith, in the chapter called ‘God Transforms’ the author shared a story about vulnerability:

Wanting to communicate the paradox of how we minister to others through our brokenness, he took a cardboard box and asked his students to “beat it up”. They punctured holes in the box, kicked it around and tore pieces off of it. Then he placed the box on the table in front of them all. Underneath the box was a light. He dimmed the house lights, and then turned on the light inside of the box. He didn’t need to say any more. They all understood. The light of Jesus shines clearly through our broken places.

The Good and Beautiful God by James Bryan Smith (page 163)

That passage illustration resonates with me. Most of the time I feel like I am walking through life with a broken leg and a bleeding heart- but, as Gayle Jonas told me, there is a purpose to the pain.

So I picked up The Wounded Healer. I love Nouwen and the title seems appropriate…

The Wounded Healer is broken up into four sections: Ministry in a Dislocated World, Ministry for a Rootless Generation, Ministry to a Hopeless Man and Ministry by a Lonely Minister. I was very tempted to jump straight to the last chapter- and I am really glad I didn’t. Each chapter got progressively better, and they built on each other (as one would expect).

Nouwen talks about the condition of modern man- how he is different than previous generations and how to minister to him effectively. He talks about the hopless man- the man who has no reason to live but does not want to die (I met many people in that predicament in Haiti), and he talks about the lonely minister (whom I can identify with more than is comfortable).

It’s a short and relatively simple book, but it’s profound. The way he simply walks the reader from point to point reminds me a but of CS Lewis’ apologetics, but it’s not nearly so dense.

What I’ve learned is that suffering is part of the human condition. There is no escaping it, but when we embrace our pain- when we look at it and see it as part of what makes us who we are and what makes us available to others and open to God it can be a beautiful thing. Or as Nouwen put it, “… the wound, which causes us to suffer now, will be revealed to us later as the place where God intimated His new creation.” (Conclusion, page 96)

When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope. … A Christian community is therefore a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings or occasions for a new vision.

The Wounded Healer by Henri Nouwen (Page 93-34)

(Side note: I find it really difficult to express myself lately- I can’t quite get the words out right. I suppose this means I am not writing enough? I feel like my brain is dying. Sorry.)