Child Again: Advent Week Two

The prodigal son was once an innocent child, and then he wasn’t.  And now he wants to be again.

Last week‘s Advent focused on Hope by sitting with the Father on the porch, “actively waiting for that moment when the child turns home.”  This week I’m inviting myself to return home with the son, who like the second week of Advent, is yearning for Peace.  I’m spending time with Rembrandt’s painting and Nouwen’s book to cast new light on my favorite parable.

The prodigal son was a child, a young man, who declared in the most dramatic way, “Myself.” My daughter as a toddler would pull Continue reading “Child Again: Advent Week Two”

The Half-life of Reform

Walking westward, finally closing in on the spires guiding me like the Bethlehem star, I was in for a disappointing surprise…

“I keep thinking what good wine and beer I have at home as well as a beautiful wife, or should I say boss?”  Cranach-Luther

The town of Wittenberg is a thousand years old, but took nearly half that time to produce the famous reformer who wrote this about his wife.  The half millennia since have seen Martin Luther’s thinking spread worldwide, including the little church in Florida via Scotland where it set the tone for my upbringing.  By that time Continue reading “The Half-life of Reform”

Left to Right

I painted the above to express in simpler terms the many words I was chewing through.  Of course Bob Dylan would completely disown me for explaining a work of art, but sometimes growing up means going against our mentors : ) .

Consider the right panel:  the work starts with strict boundaries on the left – everything is clearly defined and of a solid color.  As we move across – like a timeline – we see what was once neat becoming blurred, less defined, messy.  Life still goes along, rich(er) with color, but no longer categorized as it once was.

Left to Right
Left to Right

If it’s no surprise to us in the present day that this piece is titled, “Deconstruction”, neither would it have surprised our ancestors.  It’s nothing new to discover the world is not as it seemed.  I’ve been finding friends through history, each of them deserving a more in depth look, but as a start:

Picasso had the skill of a realist painter but questioned whether realism was all that real.  Maybe the paintings that accurately described the world around us, didn’t. Stripping away all but a few grotesquely exaggerated elements, cubism was born.

He wasn’t alone – Monet in his impressionism, Cezanne in his post-impressionism, Stein in her purposely broken grammar, all became disillusioned with contemporary art’s expression of the world, and used their creativity to shine a light on it.¹ Critics saying these artists had a skewed view of the world missed their point: even the mainstream view of the world has a skew.

Moving back in history, think of the deconstruction Galileo caused when his evidence pointed, against all odds, that the universe did not revolve around humans and their planet.  It’s probably hard for us to understand how much identity and theology had been built around this mis-information.  This simple scientific observation triggered de-construction for many and potential de-capitation for one.

Among authors through history, how many have taken to the pen to describe their movement out of or into faith (To name a motley few: Augustine, Christian Wiman, Bob Dylan)?   Without too much analysis, this includes many biblical writers as well, though some like St. Paul were writing during a time of surety, reflecting back on ‘where they once were’, almost as if their painting would read from right to left.  But then we are gifted with Job and David too, left to right, from answers to questions, from delineated to deconstructed.

Like the artwork above, faith and life look different as time moves by.  But still we see the same colors on both sides, mixed or pure, calling from the canvas.  Asking us to consider if some of the lines we thought un-crossable, might serve our faith better with a little leeway.  And when some of the blurry lines are tightened up, we then hold it in the humility of understanding they will be questioned again.

Newport Folk Festival

With Dylan on my mind, I’m thinking about the legend of the Newport Folk Festival in

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Dylan at Newport Folk Festival, July 25, 1965

1965.   Breaking with folk music tradition by playing an electric guitar, he was booed by the purists, left the stage and didn’t come back to Newport for 37 years.²  “No acoustic, no folk; know acoustic, know folk!”, the crowd might have chanted, as Galileo’s critics might have shouted onto his stage, “no geocentric, no faith; know geocentric, know faith!”.

Dylan saw there was a deeper truth to folk music that wasn’t defined by the instrument being played.  I can’t resist wondering if, standing on stage with his electric guitar splashing light into his fans’ horrified eyes, the ever-prophetic Dylan was smiling, “Someday this will all make sense.”³

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

 

♦ weekendswell ♦

If you like music, you might also enjoy reading Cover Songs. Get notified of next post by clicking “Follow”

¹Jonah Lehrer’s ties some of these pieces together in his well-researched book, Proust was a Neuroscientist.

²There are of course different viewpoints on the booing that day, enough to have its own wiki page

³ Hard not to think of Marty McFly’s Back to the Future moment after breaking from Chuck Berry style electric into a more 80’s style solo, “Guess you guys aren’t ready for that yet… but your kids are going to love it.”

 

 

 

 

 

Cage-Free

I was a little wary when I dozed off with a spider on the wall but when I woke to find it crawling on me.  Panic.  Get it off. I can’t think straight with this thing on me.

Only when I get some distance can I see the benefits of its fly-catching webs, and can begin to imagine living symbiotically, me and the spider, the spider and me.

I was born into the church and chose the church but then I woke up to find the church under my skin.

I’ve spent this year writing in frustration about that big bad wolf outside of me, but at some point I have to admit the wolf lives in me, and that’s why it bothers me so much.  If I were immune to its power I would be indifferent and have no reason to write about it.

Find and Replace

Unlike old typewriters, modern writing software has a “find and replace” feature that can search for any word (for example, “Indian”) and update it with different words (“Native American”).

As I look back on my writing this year, I could surely use such a feature to replace each complaint about the “church” with “that churchy part of me”.

Here’s an example: “How could the church be so sure about everything?” (see more on this) to “How could that churchy part of me be so sure about everything?”

Or, “How could I let that churchy part of me have such a big say?”

Or simply, “Why didn’t I ask more questions?”

I am finally learning to do this at the doctor’s office, so why not in life?  How many times have we taken a family member to the doctor for some minor thing, accepted the doctor’s first diagnosis and left with some ointment and bandaids only to get home wondering if we can get it wet or how we’ll know if it’s healed?

I think we have some implicit trust that the doctor has told us everything we need to know.

Trust

It’s time to start trusting that my questions are an elemental part of the doctor-patient relationship.  (In fact the doctor expects this, and if they don’t, it’s time to find a new doctor.)

I’m going to try writing more from myself, making honest art and making art honest.  But even if I don’t, the reader can know that whoever I am angrily writing about is triggering some part of me I wish weren’t there.

I want to write a letter of peace but the frustration seizes my fingers.  This year I am learning to write out the frustration in order to find the letters of peace underneath.

Writing has been so beneficial to get this out, to point the finger without actually poking.  All along I’ve wondered whether to mail this letter or just keep writing the letter over and over, until finally the letter itself changes.

Defining and discussing frustrations puts them in their place.  Instead of keeping faith in a narrow box with frustrations swirling around – let’s turn the tables by putting frustrations in a box, and letting the joy run wild. Instead of keeping the chickens in a cage so the wolves of the world can’t get them, let’s put the wolves in a cage and let the chickens run wild.

Cage-free, baby.

♦ weekendswell ♦

For a new vision of church-to-world, see A Wasteful Embrace.  Click Follow to be notified of future updates

Featured image by Dave Morrow, see more work at DaveMorrowPhotography