Categories
Life

“Hands”

I have a goal to write and post something for 90 straight days. I’m on day 4 and today was a packed day. My wife and I also recorded a new podcast episode tonight that just released a few minutes ago.

Whew.

So here I am at 10pm to write something.

But I’m cheating. I’m not writing something new or original.

I’m reposing a Christmas poem I wrote a few years back. It takes the perspective of Joseph, Mary’s husband and Jesus’ adoptive father.

I hope you enjoy it.


“Hands”

Open on your mother’s chest
or after a bellowing belch.
Taut when you’re tired.
Slurp slurp, tick tick,
your tongue tackles
each knuckle and cuticle.
Somehow that helps you fade
away to never-never-land.
Mine are calloused, crusty, tired.
Splinters are their wages.
Blue veins bursting.
Palm lines peeling.
Bleeding.
Grab the balm and bandage.
I’ll too visit never-never-land soon,
only after watching you there now.
For a moment I remember
the memories we will make.
Brush and comb. Throw and catch.
Shave and wash. Swing and saw.
Eat and write. Push and pull.
Mine will train yours?
That baffles me.
Yours built clouds and stars,
birds and seas.
Mine build yokes and stools,
locks and keys.
Yours rest so peaceful,
so perfect, so calm in your crib.
I reach in. A twitch.
Yours clutch mine
with a tiny might.
I worry one day you’ll be
ashamed to do the same.
Frail, weak, scarred mine are.
Made from and destined for dust.
Yet yours now
fit in mine.


This poem was originally posted on December 24, 2015 at https://jamespruch.wordpress.com/2015/12/24/a-christmas-poem-hands/

Categories
Life

The Enduring Value of Great Art

Tonight we have our second Pub Theology gathering at The Local in Saratoga Springs. If you are in the Capital District, we’d love for you to join us from 7:30-9:00pm. Our discussion topic this evening will be, “Why should and how can Christians take art seriously?”

As I was doing a little prep for our conversation tonight, I came across an article by R.C. Sproul. The paragraphs below stuck out to me. He had been writing about about the manifold depth in Rembrandt’s painting of Jeremiah, before getting to the value of truly great music. His point is that great art (not just music) has staying-power, and flat, static art quickly fades out of memory:

The substance, depth, and thought behind the works of the masters gave their art an enduring value that far transcends the cheap, the boring, and the superficial.

The same can be said of the music of the great musicians. Does Mozart’s music ever go out of style? Does Chopin’s music ever get boring? Does Handel’s Messiah still move us when we hear the “Hallelujah Chorus”? Watch the national music charts each week as they record the most popular songs across the country. The songs rise and eventually fall in a matter of a few weeks. What was Number One this week may not be in the Top Forty six weeks later. Many of today’s songs are there for a moment and then they are gone. Great art, on the other hand, has the ability to persevere through time.

Read “The Christian and Art” (parts 1, 2, and 3) by Sproul.

Categories
Theology

Jesus is Not Our Boyfriend

I have a love-hate relationship with Contemporary Christian Music (CCM). I love it because it desires to make music for Jesus. I hate it because it is often shallower than the kiddie pool. Unfortunately, its shallowness often overwhelms and leaves me longing for more.

I always hesitate to write about something I know little about. I am not a music expert or critic, and I cannot play guitar like every other American male age 18-29. I theologize and preach and shepherd, so I am treading deep water. Nevertheless, I generally like music, and it does not take a music professor to realize that Christian music needs nothing less than a modern reformation. Read a sample of the lyrics to the currently popular song “Hold Me” by Jamie Grace:

I’ve had a long day, I just wanna relax
Don’t have time for my friends, no time to chit chat
Problems at my job, wonderin’ what to do
I know I should be working but I’m thinking of you and

Just when I feel this crazy world is gonna bring me down
That’s when your smile comes around

Oh, I love the way you hold me, by my side you’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way
I love the way you hold me, in your arms I’ll always be
You take each and every day, make it special in some way

If you didn’t hear these lyrics on a Christian station, you’d probably guess the song is about the singer’s boyfriend. Never mind the teeny-bop melody. There’s not mention of human brokenness and the desperate need for a Redeemer. There’s not a hint of gospel. Instead, Jesus is a boyfriend who shows up smiling during a bad day at work.

The intention of the writer is good. The point is that Jesus is there for us. He takes care of us. If we have Jesus, we have enough. The problem is not the intention. But music (and all art, including writing) goes beyond intention, doesn’t it? Intention matters, but quality matters as well, and Christians should strive for the best quality because God did not spare quality when he created. This song is a microcosm of Christian music today. Don’t get me wrong: there are many good Christian songs, but far too often the songs I hear settle for corny Bieber-inspired lines that communicate nothing of the vast depth of God’s grace in the gospel.

Scores of words have been written about whether  “Christian” music is good or bad or why there is even a separate sub-culture of “Christian” things at-large. That’s not why I’m writing. I simply want Christians–musicians in particular–to embrace the long and splendid history of authentically transparent and objectively beautiful music in the church.

Written in 1759, the famous hymn “Come Ye Sinners” by Joseph Hart reminds us that Jesus is there for us; he takes care of us; and if we have Jesus, we have enough. Hart even uses the analogy of being held by Jesus, but he does it without making it seem like he is our cosmic, feathered-hair boyfriend. Hart writes:

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O, there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.

Here we find gospel. Here we find a strong, yet compassionate Redeemer who beckons: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Will Christian artists go back to songs like these before they attempt to go forward? Will they tap into the richness of music that belongs to our 2,000-year-old community of saints? Will they grasp for and wrestle with language in order to winsomely and articulately communicate the gospel of grace?

I hope they do. The gospel is at stake–even on Christian airwaves.

Categories
Theology

Atheism Doesn’t Do Much for Beauty, Art, and Love

If there is no God, and everything in this world is the product of (as Bertrand Russell famously put it) “an accidental collocation of atoms,” then there is no actual purpose for which we were made–we are accidents. If we are the product of accidental natural forces, then what we call “beauty” is nothing but a neurological hardwired response to particular data.  You only find certain scenery to be beautiful because you had ancestors who knew you would find food there and they dsurvived because of that neurological feature and now we have it too. In the same way, though music feels significant, that significance is an illusion. Love too must be seen in this light. If we are the result of blind natural forces, then what we call “love” is simply a biochemical response, inherited from ancestors who survived because this trait helped them survive.

– Tim Keller in The Reason for God, p. 138

Categories
Life

Tuesday Tunes

Civil Twilight is a band I’ve gotten into lately.  Their hit song is “Letters From the Sky.”  They aren’t a “Christian band,” but this song could be about Jesus’ second coming.  It’s either that or about a long, lost girlfriend.

If you need help, read the lyrics.

Oh, and they are also from the most beautiful city I have ever seen.