Of Bono and Shattered Labels

So, here I sit. By light of the Christmas tree, by light of this laptop, uncomfortably propped up on the couch. An open Bible, flopped apart somewhere in early Deuteronomy. I read a Martin Luther quote last night. He was writing to a songwriter, a George Spalatin, asking him to turn the Psalms into hymns that could be sung. He wrote:

“I wish to follow the example of the prophets and Church fathers, and compose German Psalms for the people ; that is, spiritual songs, so that the Word of God may dwell among them through the hymn. Therefore, we are seeking poets everywhere.”

Searching everywhere for poets? When did the Church stop doing that? Joseph Ratzinger contended that one of the final and true apologetic for the Church is her art. Bono famously lamented the state of the arts in the Church, especially in her evangelical subculture. Andrew Peterson helpfully pointed out that there are tons of honest and beautiful art made by Christians.

Luther’s quest to find poets is an ongoing one for the Church. They are there. They are creating. And beauty will speak in this secular age more than our jargon. This is especially vital since Evangelicalism as a cultural byword is losing its usefulness.

This proverb has been rolling through my mind the last few hours:

Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Christmas Eve always ends, but Easter lasts for a lifetime. No emotion is permanent, but the glory of good beauty will always be a deep well from which to drink. Adoration-of-the-Shepherds

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I’ve Forgotten How to Long for What’s Beautiful

vangoghmuseum-s0176V1962-1920This is not a comeback attempt at a worn down, underused blog. Those sorts of things are like attempts to start a diet or stop smoking “on Monday” or “on the 1st”. Such ventures wither. This is an attempt to claw out my cluttered thoughts, to smear some of my pent-up affections onto a white page. And what really frustrates me lately is my half-heartedness when it comes to the pursuit of beauty.

Now, the woman I married is my definition of beauty, in a sense. That pursuit has ended and she is the culmination that daily inspires. But when it comes to letters, the belletristic quality that pushes me into the next page, that itches through my bones until I find just the right chord or just the right phrase or just the right smell? I’ve forgotten how to long.

I think that’s the problem, honestly. I could probably blame social media or any number of new technological anesthesia, but hearts grow cold over time and through remorseless neglect. But when, in the course of human events, you stumble across the prologue of the Lord of the Rings, something wakes up in your chest. It feels like an increased heartbeat, a rhythm placed where it probably didn’t belong. Or in a bland and stuffed state of mind, eyes completely half-closed, a song about Vincent Van Gogh (your long-lost kindred spirit) spills through the sand in your head. Or a Trappist monk in Kentucky, dead these past 49 years, reminds me that I was born into a mask and suddenly I’m “woke” and desperate for a good cry or a knife fight.

What do you do in those moments? A Gustave Doré painting, Eeyore the Donkey, and a French poodle in a Steinbeck novel all remind me that God fashioned my heart uniquely? The most motley choir ever assembled reminds me that I am not my emotions, but my emotions are not the misfit toys that I have exiled into the cellars of my rational mind.

I’ve got a lot of fiction on my reading list. No one spoil the new Star Wars for me. I’m learning to long for the good stuff again and I think God is pleased that I’m rediscovering his gifts.