Easy Easter Girl

by DL Mayfield

I grew up an easy-Easter girl / now I spend all year in Good Friday

– Beth Malena

When I was nine, my family joined a Christian mission organization and went to Mexico for a few months, doing songs and dramas around various villages. At one point we found ourselves in some nondescript village marketplace, vendors selling sweets and fruits and vegetables and meat on the cobblestone streets, flies buzzing thick in the air. Trying to escape the heat and the flies, I ducked into the largest building on the street: the dark, severe Catholic church. I smelled the incense, the moisture of a the cool, damp stone walls. I saw the flickering candles off to the side, the walls adorned with statues and icons, gaudy plastic flowers sprouting out of vases. But off to the sides of the auditorium, to the far right of the pews, was a large, enclosed glass box. I crept over to look at the glass case, pushing my thick blond bangs out of my eye. I gasped, stepping backwards, panic pounding like I had done something wrong. Because there, in front of me, was Jesus, lying dead in a box in a church. His body was green and purple, covered with cuts and bruises, his eyes closed. His wounds, garish and a dark-burnt red, were life-sized and immediate, their effect visceral.

I ran out of the cathedral as quick as I could, finding my mom studying native handicrafts in the street. I tugged at her shirt, trying hard to keep it together. Mom, I said, feeling the tears starting to come. Mom, mom, Jesus died.

She didn’t understand, until I pulled her by the hand inside the cathedral, over to the box. Once there, she pursed her lips and looked around the cathedral. I didn’t know back then that she had grown up in similar cathedrals, that she had seen more icons and incense holders and statues of mother Mary than I in my evangelical little life could ever dream of. Don’t remember him like this, she whispered to me as we walked back into the sun. We don’t think of him like this. We remember that he came back to life.

I nodded, heart calming, watching the flies crawl over the sticky sugarcane treats. Of course that’s how I remember him, straight from the pages of my Sunday School coloring book: white robe, light blue sash, brown hair with blonde highlights, perfect, smiling, resurrected Jesus.

It would be years later that I would realize what a comfort wounds can be. Of looking at a savior who had experienced what so many had: torture, abuse, persecution; spittle, sharp irons, cutting words, even death. For people to whom life has been hard, there is a form of solace in praying to a God who does not look spotless, shining like the sun. For many, love is the very wounds of Christ, the greenish-purple skin tones, the bruised and battered life. By his wounds we are healed, the scriptures say. I didn’t realize another way to read it is like this: only the wounded can truly experience a savior.

Because now I know more than ever: we live in a Good Friday world.

Every day is bruised; every day is resurrected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Was A Customer, Part 1

by Leigh

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I wish I could forget Phil. A week after my 17th birthday, I started working at a local pharmacy. A pharmacist and clerk covered the back of the store, while I ruled over the Lotto machine and front register. If I worked in the morning, I’d make popcorn, coffee, and hot dogs. If I worked in the evening, I’d clean it all up. Not very glamorous but it was a paycheck. For me, the highlight was the customers. Most of them, at least.

We were encouraged to talk with our customers, the regulars becoming like family. We teased and advised one another. I knew who preferred which brand of cigarettes and the latest happenings at their jobs. They learned about how my junior year of high school was shaping up. Everything a first job should be, but for Phil.

The first night I met him, he sauntered in with panache. This was someone to notice. He introduced himself immediately, reaching to shake my hand, and barely letting me respond before he launched in to a story about his day. Phil’s belly hung over his camo pants, his posture stooped. He appeared to be in his mid-50s but I couldn’t say for sure. Greasy hair stuck out from under a baseball cap, contrasting his manic pace. As he continued talking, I noticed part of his front tooth was missing. A perfect triangle gap. I didn’t want to know how it happened.

Under any other circumstances, Phil would be labeled as “scary.” I would have avoided him. But he was here at the pharmacy, demanding my attention, and somehow setting me at ease. He left after about 10 minutes, long enough to buy cigarettes and Lotto tickets.

A couple of months passed and I forgot about Phil until he walked back in to the store. He launched in to an explanation as soon as I came to the counter.

“I’ve been away for a while but I haven’t forgotten about you or how great you are.”

Strange, yes, but I brushed my reservations aside. He was a customer. He was probably lonely. Not a big deal.

Phil came in more frequently after that. As we chatted, I gathered he did not have the happiest of lives. Whenever he stopped in on Saturday mornings, the alcohol on his breath permeated the air. I felt sorry for him.

Four months after I started working at the pharmacy, Memorial Day rolled around and I was the lucky one working that day. Sounds from the town’s passing parade called to me; it was the first time I hadn’t witnessed it. I buzzed through the opening chores and tackled the list of jobs the manager left for me. Few customers stopped in and soon there was nothing to do but read magazines for the rest of the day. I grabbed a few copies and nestled them between the popcorn machine and coffee maker, leaning over the counter as I flipped pages.

And then I sensed someone watching me, their gaze hot against my head. Don’t be ridiculous, I told myself. There was a window behind the counter but you’d have to look past the sunshade and cigarette cases to see anything. I brushed the feeling aside but the sensation lingered. My head fairly buzzed. Someone was watching me.

I slowly turned around, expecting to laugh at myself when no one was there. To my shock, Phil stood before me on the other side of the glass, his hands cupped around his eyes. Eyes staring straight at me.

He shot straight up and hollered excuses through the thick glass.

My heart thudded as wild as my racing thoughts. Please don’t come in, please don’t come in. I prayed to no avail. He walked in and tried to apologize.

“Oh, sorry…didn’t mean to be looking in on you. I was just trying to figure out who was working in here. That window makes everything look darker. I thought you were a black girl until you turned around,” he blundered, ignoring my telepathic plea for him to stoptalkingstoptalkingstoptalking.

I didn’t know what to say. What could I say? My face turned blank, as did my mind. What could I possibly do? I willed him to leave the store, to leave me alone but he took longer than usual. He couldn’t decide between Camels and Winstons. He didn’t know if he wanted to buy a cigar or a Little Lotto ticket. Never one to linger, he wandered down the magazine aisle after making his purchases. I caught him using the storefront security mirror to spy on me several times. But I didn’t say anything. He was a customer. Surely, he was harmless. Surely.

I pushed the incident aside, until a few weekends later.

Next month, part two.

image source

Miriam’s Drum

by Kelley

View More: http://tinafrancis.pass.us/africa2013 The Hebrews danced to the emphatic beating of the drums across the Red Sea, leaving behind the brickyards forever. They sang “The horse and rider YHWH has thrown into the sea!” as they moved beyond the reach of their taskmasters. Moses led the liberation parade as Miriam played her tambourine along the edge accompanied by a band of women. What a sight for sore, slave-weary eyes. I played a tambourine when I was young. It was small, made of chestnut colored wood and shiny with shellac. The guitar players would let me shake my tiny tambourine along the periphery of the circle. The tinny sound blended well enough, I suppose. My part may have been ancillary to the work of worship, but I savored every song. I fancied myself a modern Miriam swaying on the sidelines.

*****

Years later I would hear the sky crack open as a Burundian drummers beat their massive drums in practiced unison with intricate rhythms and ground-shaking energy. I’d never felt anything like it – the cadence traveling through the soil, through the souls of my feet, recalibrating my own heartbeat. I couldn’t stand still. Dancing was instinctive. I feel most Burundian when I hear those drums; they remind me that some part of me belongs to this place. The steady, strong pounding of those drums under the gold sun unleash what binds me and for the duration of the drumming I am undeniably free. So when I learned that Miriam carried a drum, not a tambourine, it made perfect and prophetic sense to me. The mention of a tambourine was an anachronistic mistake in translation, as all evidence in art and archeology shows that women drummed. The women were the trained musicians, skilled and strong with stamina to hold a rhythm all the way across the Red Sea. They composed the victory songs; they were the communal catalyst at the center of the procession out of captivity and into freedom. Now more than ever I want to follow in Miriam’s footsteps.

*****

In Burundi I notice women can make anything into a drum when there’s reason to celebrate or gather the community. They’ll repurpose empty plastic containers or turn washbasins upside down to find a flat surface to hammer with their calloused hands. The drums rally the women and before long the entire village is galvanized and gathered. Those women are my favorite. They don’t demand to be seen (often they crouched down low to the earth) but they’re heard across steep valleys and over green hills. Maybe they are the descendants of Miriam – it would explain my deep affinity for their handiwork.

*****

Sometimes I’m invited to shake my little tambourine on the periphery. I watch my sisters treated like tokens or merely ornamental instruments in one gathering or the next and my heart aches. I’d like to think it’s unintentional, another instance of anachronistic translation. But the truth is we act as if all women have are tambourines. So I’m turning in my tambourine and exchanging it for a drum that I can pound with all my might because I have freedom songs shut up in my bones. I want to break the air like a Burundian drummer and declare jubilee is on offer and neighborliness is making a comeback. I want to join with the tribe of women leading the liberation movement, drums in hand, because these rhythms will set us free. We are Miriam’s descendants. So it’s time we compose more freedom songs and dedicate more time to drum circles. It’s time we move in stride together to lead our communities in parades out of bondage, out of scarcity and out of injustice. We can join up with Mary, who Jesus called by her Aramaic name on Easter Sunday – Miriam. My guess is her parents wanted her to beat her drum like her namesake once did. And so she did as she ran to town announcing the resurrection song that sets us all free! Now it is my turn to carry Miriam’s drum… and I don’t think I’m the only one.

image by Tina Francis Mutungu

A Non-Anxious Presence at the Helm

by Osheta Moore

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Due to the size and the anticipated path of this storm, a voluntary evacuation is now being issued for New Orleans,” the mayor announced. “We will take questions at the end of the conference. For now, it’s important to detail what citizens need to do to prepare.”

Feverishly, I copied the blue and white list on the screen.

Important documents? They’re in the in the living room.

Medications? My prenatal vitamins were in the kitchen, my inhaler’s in my purse.

Food for the road? Thank God, I just went grocery shopping we’ve got the makings for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for days!

Mayor Nagin said we needed three days worth of clothes! Clean and ready to go.

Cell phone? Check! Charger for phone? Check!

Cat and cat food? Check and check.

That was it.

I looked at the suggested list. It felt incomplete. What if we never came back? What about our knick-knacks, our pictures, the wedding gifts that I’ve been saving for a “real first home” instead of this ministry apartment in the middle of a dangerous under resourced neighborhood in New Orleans?

I knew we were due for a storm. New Orleans is notoriously known as the city in a fishbowl. I did not, however, expect the storm to come just months after we moved into the neighborhood, newly married, with a toddler, and a baby on the way. I had hoped maybe we’d have at least a few more years of blissful ignorance before the big one hit.

A Category Five Hurricane barrelling down on us and I didn’t know any other way to navigate the storm but to fret.

I rushed around our little apartment, worrying, tossing every valuable item into duffle bags, repeatedly checking our bank account, waiting for my husband’s living stipend to post.

I was an anxious presence fleeing from the storm.

******

“Please come in for a grievance meeting” the letter from our landlord said. We are in negotiations over an issue that could affect our tenancy and true to form, I fretted for hours after reading that letter. I carefully planned our argument, then printed out documents to support our case. I paced and read tenancy laws, I wanted to be prepared to spout some legalese at him and prove that we can’t be pushed around. I sat and played out all the possible outcomes of that meeting. One outcome had us living on the street underneath the Boston University Bridge. In another outcome we received a flourishing letter of apology. I was an out of control tempest.

The next day as we walked up to the building I realized I forgot an “important” document highlighting all our requests and to say I was a mess would be an understatement. “It’s hopeless,” I said to my husband as we walked up to the landlord’s office.

I was an anxious presence weathering our housing storm.

******

“Jesus,” my friend prayed holding my hands and whispering in the middle of a Starbucks blocks away from MIT. “Help us learn to stay centered on you through all these transitions. Help Osheta trust you for the church plant, housing, the kids, and her ministry. You keep us centered while everything seems stormy around us.”

Weekly, my friend prays for me to be a non-anxious presence in the midst of life’s storm.

******

This is a common encouragement we pass to each other. It’s our version of passing the peace of Christ. By praying for Jesus to keep us centered, we remind each other that Jesus is our stabilizer when life feels out of balance. He is our peace in the midst of the storm.

Many people read the story of Jesus sleeping while the storm raged, tossing the boat to and fro, and they find peace that God Almighty slept, but I get a little annoyed. Jesus sleeping while the disciples fret over their safety, is like my son playing on his iPhone while I’m rushing around to clean for company? Hello?!? Don’t you see me sweating out over here?

But I don’t think Jesus slept to tick the disciples off. I think he slept because he wanted them to learn to navigate that storm without anxiety. He wanted them to trust the he’s so for them, he’s got their back, and he is their ultimate center such that even though he sleeps, they can sail that ship with calm hearts and collected minds.

I wonder, if the disciples could grab hands and say, “We know Jesus is our center though this storm” could they have stood at the bow and yelled, “peace, be still?” I wonder if they could be an non-anxious presence in the midst of their storms could they learn to sail that ship across to the other side without Jesus’ rebuke of “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Like Louisa May Alcott, I do not want to be afraid of the storm, I want to learn how to sail my own ship. I think it looks like staying centered on Jesus and confidently pressing on even I cannot see him. For the times he feels so far away, as if he’s asleep, I need remember that he’s so for me, he’s got my back, and he’s my ultimate center that I need not worry. Because of Jesus, I can be a non-anxious presence at the helm, in the midst of the storm.

 

 

What a Woman Is Worth

by Tamara

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It began with a question even before I was born.

Just a swell in my mother’s belly, I was punched by a hand that was meant to hold me. I was not even here yet, and already my worth was in doubt. As I grew, so would the question, and it would gnaw at me—unarticulated, insidious, and damning.

My world told me stories of my worth, and I believed them. So I lived into what I believed, which is to say, I did not live fully well.

Still, story was what I knew; how, in rare moments, I lived; how I could still, in some small way, be the truest me. So I let out a bit of my story into the online pages of A Deeper Story. I knew I was searching for a story deeper than the one my world had been telling me, and so I broke and I bared and I finally asked out loud the hardest question of my life in a blog post entitled, What’s a Girl Worth?

I was 13– Excited to be out late at Denny’s with my friends, talking and laughing, effervescent, carefree. He was much older, at least in his 30s, but he zeroed in on me. He leered, scruffy face so close, stinking drunk, and he loud-whispered words I’d never heard about what he wanted to do to me. He said he would make me quiver, and he did. Just not the way he meant.

I sought comfort from two women I thought would understand, but they could only see the moment through their own dark-tinted lenses. My experience wasn’t as bad as theirs had been, and they brushed it off. I was alone with fear and shame.

What’s a girl worth?

I was 15– Too young and too scared, desperate to keep my older boyfriend, reluctantly willing. He gave me a magazine as a guide, full of bodies and skin, excitement and impossibility. He wanted me to learn what to do for him. So I did. And when he used me all up, he left me to guilt and self-loathing. And I dared not seek comfort where it had not met me before.

What’s a girl worth?

I was 17– Feeling like a woman behind the wheel of my red convertible, waiting for the light to let me get to my hostess job, mature, nearly grown. He honked his horn and filled the space between his car and mine with shouts and dirty laughter: He liked how I ate my banana. I drove away stupid and small.

What’s a girl worth?

I was 31– Creating a place of laughter and heart-baring, writing good words, typing out truth. I opened up so others could too, and I invited conversation. He was anonymous and cowardly. He sent a message to describe how he’d defile me if he had his way. I was shaken and suspicious.

When I turned to my communities, two scoffers stood out among the supporters. Women who suggested it was my fault, expected, deserved.

What’s a girl worth?

I know the statement of my worth comes from the lips of the One who made me, but yet– but yet. When the shouts of men say, You’re just a thing to fuck, when the sneers of women say, Oh well, the voice of truth is hard to make out through the din.

And I need the strong voices of my brothers and the sweet singing of my sisters to raise loud the truth of our Father’s words, to remind me what a girl’s worth.

Have you ever struggled to believe what you’re worth when God and the world disagree?

I clicked “publish” and stared at my own story on the screen, now in full view. I was bare and frightened, bold and free. Right away, responses flooded in, but the one that was clearest was this: I was not alone. The question of worth was universal, and people were aching to find it answered.

So I began to gather their stories, and I read over and over that, different as they seemed, our stories were the same. We were all wounded and wanting, longing for acceptance, most of all from ourselves. And as I handled each woman’s story closely and with care, I saw my own wounds I had ignored for so long; I saw that I needed the same close care.

And so I offer this book not as a reflection of an editor who is herself a neatly tied-up work, but as a person who is still very much a work in progress. I offer you stories of hurt and of healing so that you might begin to listen to and claim your own. I offer you hope that the story of redemption is one able to be woven into all others. I offer you invitation to discover alongside me what a woman is worth.

Pick up your copy of What a Woman Is Worth here.

Embrace the Awkward

by Amber C Haines

The Office is one of the funniest shows ever created, but it does’t matter to me. I can’t watch it for even a minute. The awkward factor makes me cringe so hard that I curl into a ball and cover my eyes. I can’t take it because people on this planet really do act like that in real life, and it tears me up. It’s just too real, and I am an empathetic woman, so sorry for the characters that I turn the channel looking for something terribly wonderful, like Bones.

The truth is that I am one of the most awkward people I know outside of my own family. I mean, this is just as likely to be me:

All my cool must have leaked out during the sleepless nights of early motherhood. My personality can be a bit out there, and then the four sons I birthed made it worse. The older I get, the more I hold my tongue, but other than that, I don’t have much time to make my strangeness any better. Instead I’m learning to embrace it.

I’m learning to see that there are beautiful side-effects of being the awkward girl.

So many of the things Jesus has asked me to do have been some of the most awkward things to ever cross my mind.

On the good days, my awkwardness finds itself alongside discernment. Once in a while I am able to discern a situation enough to know that my words won’t hold water or to know when to dance my way across the room. Once in a while I miss the boat altogether and a make complete fool of myself. The Lord does His part to keep me humble, and then I’ve become the girl who just doesn’t care whether or not she makes people uncomfortable. Just don’t make me watch The Office.

Think about how intimacy works. When you tread into the deeper waters of conversation with a friend, more of your stories come to light. And the more we get into our stories, the more likely we are to run into old demons together. The deeper we get, the more likely we are to cry or to need a hand to reach across the table. Sometimes we need arms to hold us or a mouth to speak a blessing. Sometimes truth has to come out like a stinging ointment. Only the blessed awkward ones will cross the line into greater intimacy or acts of service. One time I was so sick that my best friend had to hold me up on the toilet. That was the day she became my best friend.

When we let our guards down, we’re bound to be at least a little awkward. What was it like for Jesus to mix His spit with dirt to create a paste to rub in the eyes of a blind man? How intimate would it be for Jesus Christ to touch my eyelids with His fingertips?

Intimacy is usually on the other side of awkward if you can survive it.

The other day I was in my usual writing spot and a friend texted asking that I would do her a favor. She said she had a friend there who was crying, and she wanted to me to find her and give her a gigantic hug. I wrote back, “I’m your girl,” because I may as well use my awkwardness for good. I got up and walked around the room and saw a girl who sat alone, but she wasn’t crying. I had never seen her before. I asked her if she knew my friend, and she said, “yes.” Then I sat down in the chair with her and put my arms around her, and when she hugged me back, she started crying hard, so hard that I cried, too.

So we sat there hugging for maybe a minute, and a minute makes a long hug, even from your own Mama. But between us was such holiness and pure intimacy that I was floored. It felt like church, like hands laid and tongues whispering. I wrote my friend back and thanked her for giving me the gift of that opportunity, to go be awkward with someone, to share in spirit with a complete stranger. Her arms were the arms of Jesus right back to me. She let me be awkward and she was awkward back at me.

And in that moment we were two-or-more-gathered in and seen by God. Our walls were down. I say, embrace the awkward. Kingdom come.

God has let me down. There. I said it.

by Joy

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“People will let you down, but your Father God will never let you down.”

At first, the idea wraps my soul in a warm blanket and I sink happily into its warm folds. Until I think about the two brothers I wrote about at work. The younger one has cerebral palsy, and since they live 4.5 miles from school down a deeply rutted dirt road impassable for his wheelchair (and too poor to own a car), the older boy carries his brother on his back to and from school every day.

I think about how their difficulties are exponentially greater than mine.

I can’t help but think of my daughter Elli, her heart defects, brain injury, cerebral palsy and seizure. How much tougher her life would have been had we lived in another country. I think of her death more than five years ago now. I think of my youngest’s physical issues and the bullies who go after my other children. I think of so much pain and brokenness and evil that I hurl the soul blanket to the floor and stomp on it.

How can such a saying comfort me?

We can argue about expectations, do theological contortions, and trot out still more cliches like “God’s ways are not our ways,” but I can’t pretend to waltz serenely through tragedy. It is agony to look honestly at the razor-sharp shards of this life, even more so to carry the burden of pretending it’s fine. Hiding my hurt, anger, and disappointment away in my hidden super-secret self is soul poison, and like all poison, I have to get it out.

God has let me down. There. I said it.

My faith tells me that God is not in a hurry. God gives us freedom to make beautiful or terrible or self-serving or self-sacrificing choices. And maybe this freedom applies to forces of nature too. My faith tells me that I’m called to be part of bringing good out of evil and tragedy, even when it’s so slow we can’t see any progress.

My faith gives me hope for redemption, even for my own terrible choices.

But my faith doesn’t know how to respond when my oldest says, “I have tried praying, but I get no answer. People say they hear God, but I don’t.”

My child is so young and already disappointed by God. All I can do is hold him and whisper through my tears, “Me too, honey. Me too.”

But did God really let us down? Maybe. Probably. But maybe it was other people — the ones who coined these tired out cliches in the first place.

The problem with nice-sounding ideas like “God won’t let you down” and “God answers prayer” is that they aren’t universally true, not when taken at face value. Bad things happen and God stays silent and too many people die for no good reason. These sayings might be true in certain specific narrowly-defined cases, but they aren’t rules that apply to everyone everywhere all the time.

I think I know what they are trying to say: God is there, a constant in a life characterized by change. But even that rings hollow when God doesn’t feel close.

I’m not the only one. David poured out his grief, frustration, and loneliness in the psalms. Even Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

If even Jesus, Son of God, experienced God’s distance and refusal to answer his prayers, why do we expect any different? And why do we keep parroting these phrases to each other? Why do we tickle each other’s ears with empty promises?

Do me the courtesy of telling me the truth. I think unmet expectations are worse than low expectations.

I need to know that it is common to feel like God has turned away or simply won’t speak. I need you to tell me that prayer isn’t a secret potion to getting my way, nor is it a transaction guaranteeing results. Most of all, I need to remember that God being God doesn’t mean waving magic wands and instantly changing things; God being God more often means that God, who exists outside of time, appears to be in no hurry to those of us chained to the tick-tock of the clock.

I need you to resist tying a nice neat bow on top of my pain. Let me ask my questions. Wrestle hard with how to talk about these things without giving the wrong impression. Ache with me when I don’t understand this silent God. Make it safe to share my individual experience. I will do the same for you.

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Wheezing My Way Through House of Cards

by Timothy

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I was about seven episodes into House of Cards season one, a good year before it became fashionable to use the show’s title as a hashtag. An early adopter friend told me about how excellent the story was, how well acted it was, how well conceived it was, how it was a modern day Macbeth.

I’m a sucker for Shakespeare, so I dove in; and I’m not a television watcher. I’d rather go for a walk then have my life sucked dry by a blinking screen. But I fell in, hard. The pace of the story, the Shakespearean asides, the “couples smoke” at the window each night. Then, there was episode seven, or was it six? You know, the one where Kevin Spacey undresses Kate Mara and serves her with oral sex.

I was done.

Call me old fashioned, or just old, I don’t care; but, my tastes have changed. Having three beautiful pixie-daughters running around speeds that change. G.K. Chesterton once remarked how sin makes us old–not

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mature per se, just old with a dash of pop-sophistication. At one point, that was true of me: the sophisticated snob, old and decrepit, wheezing my delight at the beautiful macabre.

But my daughters have retaught me delight, simplicity and a rustic kind of taste. One that revels in a beauty and elegance that cares less for how a media expression “redeems culture,” and cares more about how my aesthetic experiences enhance my Divine love affair.

When I was younger I relished the rapture of life—the experience of it all. I thought “beauty” was everywhere. But my perspective was due in large part to my arrogance and selfishness. My hedonism was ravenous. Whether it was infatuation with a girl or with nature or with cultural expressions–like a movie or album, I drank deep the “beauty” I saw, and the beauty I thought I experienced. But what I thought was “beauty” was really sensual satisfaction, surface aesthetics devoid of the sublime.

Though I could sense the childlike innocence that lay behind the existential, it did not penetrate my soul. I regarded “beauty” as one regards pre-cut flowers at the supermarket; they’re pretty, arranged well and available at my whim. Only the transaction separates me from consuming the flowers.

I lived detached from innocence much the same way I lived detached from the flowers. My mind ascended to the idea that innocence, that true beauty, that God lay behind nature and was somewhere buried behind each girl I encountered, yet my life failed to represent this notion. I lived like I had purchased beauty at the supermarket.

It’s bizarre to me how life thrusts us into innocence—through the birth canal and into our mother’s arms—only to have it methodically stripped away. But then, we participate in the stripping. Indeed, I became a dragon, a brute beast, screaming for “beauty” and guilty pleasures all in the name of adult freedom, sophistication, and the redeeming elements of the “whatever.”

My “tastes” in culture, or aesthetic experiences, need to be stewarded by a baptized imagination that perceives the world through the kaleidoscope of a holy brilliance. And that’s what I see running around my house–little scallywags shimmering in their kaleidoscopic brilliance. They scream to God when they see the sunset, “Do it again, God!” And he does.

For seven months now, I’ve lived in Oxford, England–a hermit on the English countryside. I think God placed my family here to teach me, once more, the rustic life of delight. I think he’s showing me how an otherly kind of beauty matters, that form and content matter, that if I want to know him I must continue to grow young.

Am I judging those of you still watching and hashtagging House of Cards? No. Well, maybe those of you hashtagging it. I mean, c’mon. Really?

All I’m doing, really, is writing myself a little reminder. That excellent elements of craft do not make something beautiful, though they may, arguably, make it a form of art. That I am not placed here to validate all forms of art, especially in the name of “redeeming culture.” I’m here, like C.S. Lewis was, to find where all the beauty came from.

And when I find it, I scream to the sky, “Do it again, God!” And he does. The sky lights up with his brilliance, and so do I.

 

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