“God repairs us through creation and through art.”

I just got home after hearing pianist Pat Coil playing his weekly jazz set at Basil Asian Bistro, with Jim Ferguson on bass and vocals. On the drive home, I remembered a quote I read this morning in Jeffrey Overstreet’s book Through a Screen Darkly that expressed what I was feeling.

I can describe it best by borrowing some words from an artist and music-lover named Jessica Poundstone, who came back from a Bill Frisell concert recently and wrote, “Sometimes music is like one of those programs you run on your computer to optimize your hard drive: it heals a million little broken things you didn’t even know needed attention.”

God repairs us through creation and through art.

Listening to Pat play does exactly that for me. I look forward to every chance I have to enjoy an evening of jazz and a glass of fine wine, and I’m grateful for the echoes of something more that I hear during those times.

On a side note, I thought it was cool when I read that in Jeffrey’s book this morning, since I was sitting at a coffee shop waiting for Don Hart, an arranger I work for, to finish a meeting with Bill Frisell about some arrangements Don’s writing for an NCO concert next week featuring Bill. I had to get some of Bill’s charts from him, since I’m helping with music preparation for the concert.

Fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous… (Anne Lamott)

As much as I read, there are not very many authors whose books I buy the day they come out. That probably has something to do with the big stack of books I already own that are waiting to be read. Anne Lamott is one of the few writers whose books automatically jump to the top of my reading list. Her newest book, Grace (Eventually), which hit stores last week, is the third book of essays she’s written on life and faith, the other two being Traveling Mercies and Plan B. It’s a fairly quick read, 250 pages, and wonderful. I wouldn’t recommend reading it while at a coffee shop, unless you don’t mind strange looks for the frequent chuckles her writing provokes.

In an essay on helping to raise funds to prevent the closings of libraries, she writes a couple great sentences on the importance of books and reading.

We came together because we started out as children who were saved by stories, stories read to us at night when we were little, stories we read by ourselves, in which we could get lost and thereby found.

If you are mesmerized by televised stupidity, and don’t get to hear or read stories about your world, you can be fooled into thinking that the world isn’t miraculous – and it is.

Reading and books are medicine. Stories are written and told by and for people who have been broken, but who have risen up, or will rise, if attention is paid to them. Those people are you and us. Stories and truth are splints for the soul, and that makes today a sacred gathering. Now we were all saying: Pass it on.

And here’s an excerpt from another chapter about her experience at church one week, after things had not been going well.

Then I headed to church.
And it was not good.
The service was way long, and boring, and only three people had shown up for the choir, and the song they sang sucked. There was a disruptive baby who had about three hours of neck control but was already spoiling everything for the rest of us. I sat with a look of grim munificence, like so many of your better Christians, exuding mental toxins into the atmosphere. I decided that this church was deteriorating. I had come for a spiritual booster shot and instead got aggravation. I was going to leave, and never come back.
Then something amazing happened. I would call it grace, but then, I’m easy. It was that deeper breath, or pause, or briefly cleaner glasses, that gives us a bit of freedom and relief.
I remembered Sam at this church in his first months, making loud farting noises with his mouth, or sobbing uncontrollably about the state of things, and no one seemed to care or notice. This memory evoked patience in my anxious, complaining heart. The squalling baby and I tired ourselves out at about the same time. He fell asleep; I pinched the skin of my wrist, to bring myself back to my body.

I realized I was going to get through this disappointing service, and anyway, you have to be somewhere: better here, where I have heard truth spoken so often, than, say, at the DMV, or home alone, orbiting my own mind. And it’s good to be out where others can see you, so you can’t be your ghastly, spoiled self. It forces you to act slightly more elegantly, and this improves your thoughts, and thereby the world.

You can buy Grace (Eventually) at your local bookstores, or through Amazon (where you can also find a good interview with her).

God would prefer movies to be…

After my recent post about “christian movies” and the importance of letting art be art, it was with interest that I read this quote a couple weeks ago by Rich Christiano from the recent National Religious Broadcasters convention. “I think God would prefer movies to be either Christ movies or porn movies.” It was given during one of two sessions that discussed film and Christianity during the convention, helmed by Christiano and his brother, Dave, and Facing the Giants director Alex Kendrick. I’m not quite sure why he didn’t demand that movies also be shot in black and white to remove any hint of nuance. Maybe he’s saving that for next year’s NRB convention.

I’ve also been following the recent uproar regarding Christianity Today’s movie reviewers. It all started when talk show host Paul Edwards interviewed Michael Landon, director of The Last Sin Eater. In the course of the interview, Edwards read Landon the excerpt of Peter Chattaway’s review for CT that I liked so much I quoted here. He then asked Landon if it were true that he viewed the story as nothing more than a set up for an evangelical punch-line, and Landon, by the way he denied it, confirmed it. Landon replied, with obvious implications, “Oh absolutely not. I mean, that’s ridiculous. And all you’d have to do– If Peter spent any time with anybody who has turned their life over to Christ, he would know that there is a freedom in that.”

In the ensuing debate, which included Edwards calling the CT movie critics “anti-evangelical”, Jeffrey Overstreet wrote an excellent defense and explanation for his blog of his philosophy of reviewing movies. It was later posted, in an abridged form, on CT’s site here.

If you enjoy Jeffrey’s writing, I highly recommend buying his brand new book, Through a Screen Darkly – Looking Closer at Beauty, Truth and Evil in the Movies. I’m in the middle of it now, and it’s the kind of book that if I were to try and quote the parts I really like here, I would end up retyping most of the book. You can order it directly from Jeffrey, or through Amazon.

March 8th, 1982…

Since 1982, I have:

  • Gone to school
  • Worked in radio for 3 ½ years
  • Lived in San Miguel del Monte, Argentina, for 16 months while going to school.
  • Traveled around Argentina running sound and lights for different drama groups while in school.
  • Worked in television for 2 years.
  • Lived in San Pedro de Macorís, República Dominicana for 6 weeks.
  • Toured with Michael Card for 4 months as part of his tech crew.
  • Read countless books
  • And now, lived in Nashville for 1 year, working in the music industry (arranging, music preparation, etc.).
  • I’m looking forward to what the coming years bring.

    People Need People

    Shaun has just posted a blog entry on his two churches, the “institutional church” where you go to learn how to be happy, and the “church” in his cul-de-sac with his friends. It reminded me of something Dr. Harold Best wrote in Unceasing Worship, the book that has had the biggest impact on my thinking of anything I’ve read.

    We were not created to live in compartments. People belong together. We must own up to this fact about humanity even before we consider the scriptural examples and instructions about Christians meeting together. If I go to a baseball game, I want to be with my grandchildren or my buddies or my associates. The more crowded the ballpark, the greater my delight and the more I soak up the warmth of this communal cacophony called a baseball game. There I am, caught up in the colors, the smells, the cheers and jeers. Why do we have clubs and quilting bees, cookouts and beach parties, other than to do something in each other’s company?

    Put the Lord Jesus and his gospel into this natural urgency for company, and we have the body of Christ eagerly seeking times and places to be together. Mutual indwelling demands company. Continuous outpouring demands fellowship. The corporate assembly is where love and mutual indwelling congregate; it is where believers have each other within eye-and earshot, within kindly embrace. If there were no such things as church buildings and regularly scheduled services, Christians would, out of necessity, seek each other out for the sheer pleasure of finding Christ in each other, hearing different stories about his work in them, enjoying the ordinary and the exceptional, and perhaps only then gathering around what we call a liturgy. In such a gathering there would be little need at some point to say, “Now let us worship,” because no one would be able to locate the dividing line between “now” and “always.”

    Christ in us demands that each of us seek out who the rest of us are. It means realizing that we actually have each other, that we are already at one with each other, greeting each other, blessing each other, settling on acceptable ways to express ourselves to God’s glory. Then we craft these into a liturgy, knowing that it is at best a passing reference to the one who abides from the eternities and lights our path wherever we walk. If we were to concentrate more on the sheer joy of getting together on a Sunday – people made holy, people yet to be made holy and people not sure of the difference, all banded together around the Lord – we would then more fully understand the depth and width of “the communion of the saints” in the Apostles’ Creed.