Monday
May182015

How Singing Together Rehearses Mutual Submission

As I'm writing my book, I'm enjoying the disciplined privilege of dialoguing with old friends and mentors who sit on my shelves, reminding me of their ministry to my life. I was cracking open one relatively recent "old friend," Resonant Witness: Conversations Between Music and Theology, edited by Jeremy Begbie and Steven Guthrie. I opened up Steven Guthrie's amazing chapter, "The Wisdom of Song," to discover fierce underlining. Many of the ideas I had interacted with in those pages were forgotten, and rediscovering them was like finding an old tool that I thoguht I'd lost. I'd like to share an insight from that chapter which should inspire worship leaders struggling to figure out just how their work actually pastors people. It will encourage you.

Ephesians 5:18-21 is one of those hallmark passages that we often forget when we talk about worship and being "Spirit-filled." Often times, we can get pretty narrow in what we think "Spirit-filled" worship looks like. (I address some of that in detail here.) Ephesians 5 helps us broaden that out. In teaching Greek, some professors will point out that this passage is one of those places where English translations have done a poor job in connecting the ideas of the Greek. In the original language, we have an imperative (a command), followed by a string of participles ("-ing" words) which help flesh out what that command looks like. In Greek, the command is "be filled with the Spirit," and the "how" gets described in the participles, "speaking...singing and making music...giving thanks...submitting." We can observe several things here.

First, as we probably have all experienced, speaking/singing/making music are all ways we embody being filled with the Spirit. Second (probably more surprising), submitting to one another is another one of those ways. And third, look at how closely singing and submitting are linked in this passage. Now let's sprinkle a little musical reflection on top of this and hear what Steve Guthrie has to say:

What kind of mutual submission happens in song? For one thing, singing words together involves synchronicity--staying in time with one another. The singers submit themselves to a common tempo, a common musical structure and rhythm. In addition to this, those who sing surrender to the constraints of a particular melody and harmony, a common key and tonal hierarchy. As they submit in this way they discover limits that are not oppressive; limits that do not frustrate but facilitate the participants' intention to sing. If this mutual submission entails the loss of one sort of freedom (the freedom to sing whatever notes one wants, in whatever way one chooses), it also enables freedom of another sort--the freedom to sing this tune; the freedom to be part of a chorus. ...

Even in the midst of our bickering, we all would have affirmed the wisdom of Paul's command: "submit yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ." With each week's opening hymns, however, we're forced to rehearse this mutual submission, and as we did, we learned how such submission is enacted in song.*

Did that blow your mind like it did mine? In singing, we "rehearse" our Spirit-filled mutual submission. That means that we, as worship leaders, are pastoring this Spirit-filled virtue into our flock when we lead them in song. Perhaps even without us knowing it, we are contributing to the positive shaping of the Body of Christ into the image of Christ by the power of the Spirit. Worship leaders, you are pastors.

*Steven R. Guthrie, "The Wisdom of Song," in Resonant Witness; Conversations Between Music and Theology, ed. Jeremy S. Begbie and Steven R. Guthrie (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011), 400-401, 407.
Monday
May112015

So...I'm writing a book

I'm very excited to announce to my readers that I've got a book coming down the pipeline. I'm joining forces with a great team of folks over at Zondervan to deliver a project that has been on my heart for quite a while.

The Back Story

For the last five years, I've been thinking long and hard about my own journey as a worship leader, and I've been thinking a lot of those thoughts out loud on this blog. I've been throwing ideas onto the wall, and in many ways, you all--my readers--have been a major help in figuring out what is truly sticking.

My own vocational journey started out as a confused, schizophrenic biography. Since my teenage years, I had sensed a strong call to pastoral ministry, and I had always thought that this call would take the shape of everything else I'd seen: preaching, teaching, visitation, leadership, weddings, funerals, etc. But, God kept on providentially shoving me down the "worship leader" road, and I kept asking Him, "So, when am I going to be able to become a pastor?" Several years ago the realization came, "I AM one, right where I am, doing just what I'm doing."

And then I started having conversations with other worship leaders who were sniffing out the same ideas in their own callings. But there was very little out there (either educationally or resource-wise) that helped us flesh out what it means for worship leaders to take seriously a pastoral call in their vocation. So we reflected together and informally learned from one another. A few years ago, I started putting those reflections down on paper and keeping a kind of "hopper" for these ideas to get dumped into. The hopper grew and grew, and I not long ago sat down to organize those tossed-in thoughts. I realized I had a pretty comprehensive outline. And, more importantly, I began to realize that God was giving me something to say that just might be helpful for some other brothers and sisters.

What the Book is About

And now I'm here. Somewhere in mid-to-late 2016, we should, Lord-willing, see a book called, The Worship Pastor hit the scene. The hope for The Worship Pastor is that it helps worship leaders flesh out just how their jobs are already a pastoral ministry and equip them to do it better. It's something that I hope both colleges/seminaries can use as an introductory resource and worship leaders can easily pick up and find a use for (that's going to be a tension I will be working hard to straddle...substantive enough for institutions, accessible enough for people without much formal training). 

Each chapter will be a vignette, a kind of metaphor for the worship leader's pastoral life. I'll tackle subjects such as the Worship Pastor as...

  • Emotional Shepherd
  • Prophetic Guardian
  • Theological Dietician
  • Caregiver
  • Mortician (yup, that's right...if my book had a soundtrack, this would be where the Scandanavian Death Metal gets played...face-melt)

I'll share a lot of stories about the good, the bad, and the ugly in my own road of worship leading, and hopefully the book will provide a lot of hope for worship leaders on all points of the journey. My desire is that The Worship Pastor might set a lot of young worship leaders on the right path. At the same time, I hope that the book might provide a renewed vision for worship leaders who have been in the trenches for quite a while and need some fresh inspiration.

Why Am I Telling You This?

So...given that the book is quite a long ways away from being in print, why in the world am I telling you about it now? First, I'm just excited. Second, I invite you to pray with and for me. You all have been such a big encouragement to me, and you're actually probably the main reason I'm writing this thing. Third, I'm going to be pouring a lot of my energies into writing, which means less time for blogging, and I wanted you to know why. The posts will continue to come, but they probably won't be as frequent.

I'm already learning how different a book project is from blogging. Each writing medium has its own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the exchange of ideas. Writing a book with a team of editors requires a lot more discipline and provides a lot more accountability. For those reasons, I think this will be some of my best writing and integrative thinking to date. I can't wait to see what's on the other side of all this. All in all, God has really paved the way, so I'm stepping into this new facet of my call. 

I Want Your Thoughts...RIGHT NOW

The fourth reason I'm telling you this is that your feedback has been invaluable to me over the years. It's sharpened my thinking, and many times it's redirected my heart to new and better places. So...I want your feedback.  As I write on the topic of pastoring through worship leading,

  • What topics do you hope are addressed?
  • What have YOU learned that you wish someone had told you earlier?
  • Where, in your estimation, are the pastoral blind spots for worship leaders?
  • What are things I have said in the past which have been helpful or real "aha" moments for you?
  • What are things I have said in the past which need sharpening, correction, or clarification?

And...finally...some of these topics are sensitive or too long for blog comments. So...shoot me an email, too, at info@zachicks.com. I welcome your help in making this book as helpful as possible for Jesus' Church.

Tuesday
May052015

In Search of the Emotionally Persuasive Liturgy

Over at Reformed Worship, I wouldn't want you to miss an important post of mine that posits some very current questions I am asking. Once again, my investigation of Thomas Cranmer has proven a helpful launchpad into current worship issues and reflections. 

The questions I'm seeking Cranmer's help in answering actually have a lot to do with yesterday's post on my journey in listening better to the charismatic tradition. Maybe to encourage you to go check out the post, here are the four provocative questions I'm asking at the end:

  • What is it about charismatic worship that so captures the heart of the average person?
  • What is it about the ‘musical rhetoric’ of our brothers and sisters from these traditions that ‘works’ so well in persuading people?
  • What anthropological understandings and assumptions stand behind the emotional intuitions of charismatic worship leaders and songwriters?
  • Could it be that Pentecostal and charismatic (especially musical) techniques of persuasionare worth exploring and understanding, just as rhetorical techniques were mastered and marshaled by Cranmer in his day and age?

As weird as it sounds, something tells me that Cranmer, if he could understood our context today, would have supported the "emotional work" of the charismatic tradition and would have sought to ask similar questions along the way of trying to lead a new Reformation in worship. Please go read the post. I welcome feedback and insights. 

Monday
May042015

Listening to the Charismatic Tradition

If you're a worship leader engaging in any way with the mainstream of the music of modern worship today, you are interacting with and encountering charismatic Christianity in some way, shape, or form. Lately, God has led me into a season of earnest listening to the Pentecostal and charismatic traditions (many understandably lump the two together, but the more I hear from them, the more I understand their distinctives). God has placed some pretty amazing friends and worship leaders in my life who are committed, Jesus-loving, Spirit-seeking charismatic brothers and sisters. We hang out, do lunch, talk shop, swap stories, and encourage one another.

The Reformed, liturgical, and evangelical tribes I tend to most regularly hover in are often critical and suspicious of Pentecostal and charismatic worship thought and practice. And though I share some of these concerns, I find that folks in my traditions can be quite knee-jerk, broad brushed, and under-informed. Our criticisms (as is often the case in any polemic) are caricatures based on either (a) second- or third-hand information, or (b) the worst representations of the traditions.

In the spirit of one of my new heroes, Chuck Fromm, head of Worship Leader Media, I've been trying to listen and converse more widely than my tradition often goes. Some might call it selling out. I just call it loving the Church. And in my desire to listen well, I've tried to hear from the different types of voices: theologians, authors, speakers, musicians, worship leaders, worshipers. The net effect has been hugely edifying. So, with just a little commentary, I'm happy to disclose to you some of the things I'm listening to, reading, and learning.

(I will encourage you, though, with one thing. As worship leaders and pastors, we should cast our social and theological nets wider than our immediate circles. Read widely, and, even better, socialize widely. Nothing beats actually conversing and building relationships with people outside your folds. From personal experience, I can testify that it's just incredibly healthy. It also allows you to go back to your circles and better sniff out the Pharisaism, especially the self-righteousness in your own heart. Lord, have mercy.)

Worship leaders and thinker-practitioners:

Glenn Packiam, Pastor of New Life Downtown (Colorado Springs, CO), is one of my favorite charismatic dudes out there because he is exploring how the heart of charismatic worship (particularly in terms of the charismatic emphasis on "encounter" [see Pete Ward below]) intersects with the liturgical tradition. He just wrote a paper on worship and emotions that I can't wait to tell everyone about whenever he makes it public. Great, integrative insights. Everyone should check out his blog. He most recently wrote an excellent booklet called Re-Forming Worship: A Futurology of Congregational Music for the Non-Denominational Church.

Andrew Ehrenzeller, a South Floridian Jesus Culture artist, has become a valuable conversation partner. He introduced me to Ray Hughes (see below), and I find in him a zeal and earnestness that makes me want to be a better worship leader. He and I have had some very meaningful conversations about spiritually interpreting the indigenous musical styles of cities and regions to hear how God is already at work in them to sow the seeds of the gospel. Deep stuff. Check out his beautiful, creative, Peter Gabriel-ish album, Children of Promise.

Justin Jarvis, another South Floridian connected with Jesus Culture is a guy I respect and admire. I've had a few great, inspiring conversations with him, and I've interacted with his latest album, Atmospheres, HERE.

Speakers

This was brand new for me and highly insightful. Pentecostal teacher Ray Hughes, whose ministry has evidently had not a small impact on many influential new charismatic movements (like Bethel and Jesus Culture), makes some fascinating connections between Old Testament worship, spiritual forces, music history, science, and ethnomusicology. For many, Hughes seems like he's really "out there" in moments, and some will find him hard to follow. His speaking style is organized but feels a bit stream-of-consciousness. I recommend his Minstrel Series at least to open up your senses a bit. 

One recurring itch for me, though, is how little the Gospel of Jesus is talked about. To me it gives credence to one outsider's observation that some corners of the charismatic tradition can feel like they're "pole-vaulting over Calvary to get to Pentecost."*

Books/articles:

The Spirit in Worship - Worship in the Spirit, ed. Teresa Berger, Bryan D. Spinks

I particularly found the chapter, "The Spirit in Contemporary Charismatic Worship," a helpful history of and view into the later charismatic movements in the UK.

Simon Chan's chapter was a great featuring of how Nicene Christianity has always seen a close connection between pneumatology and ecclesiology...the relationship of Spirit to Church. I felt like there was some caricaturing of Western Christianity, though.

 

Pete Ward, Selling Worship

I had passed by this book many times in years past, because, based solely on the title, it looked like just another critique of worship's consumerist tendencies. Boy was I wrong. Glenn Packiam turned me onto this gem of historical analysis. I've spent the most time digesting one of the final chapters on "encounter," which gave me important insights into one of the hallmark distinctives of charismatic worship music.

 



Don Williams, "Charismatic Worship," in Exploring the Worship Spectrum, ed. Paul Basden

This Presbyterian-turned-Vineyard pastor helpfully and generously articulates the charismatic perspective. I think his vantage point as a former Presbyterian was helpful for folks like me reading his insights. He knew that there would be some concerns, and he addressed them.

 

 

*Paul Zahl, "A Liturgical Worship Response," in Exploring the Worship Spectrum: 6 Views, ed. Paul Basden, 154.
Friday
May012015

The National Worship Leader Conference in May

For all of you easterners, in less than a month, I'll be contributing a small part to the National Worship Leader Conference (May 18-21) in Virginia, just outside of DC. I'm probably more excited than ever about the lineup of folks. For instance, Tuesday morning, there will be a really nice interplay between David Crowder and Bill & Gloria Gaither. And later on I'll be interviewing the Gaithers on their years of wisdom about the worship landscape and songwriting. When I did this interview last year in Kansas, I was downright shocked at how thoughtful and incisive their observations were.

Dr. Reggie Kidd of Reformed Seminary will be there on Wednesday morning. If you all haven't picked up his book, With One Voice, you need to. It's drenched with Jesus-centered reflections you don't normally here in worship conversations.

Then...THEN...I'm probably most excited about the lineup on Wednesday night. Two of my favorite worship artists right now--Daniel Bashta and The Brilliance--will be leading us in singing. I honestly can't wait. Dan's newest album, For Every Curse, is dynamite. And I've already told you about The Brilliance's Brother.

In addition to all this, I'll be helping out with a Songwriting workshop as we listen to people's submissions and discuss them, hopefully to lead us all to better practices in writing songs for our local church.

Go straight here if you'd like to jump into registration. But certainly check out the site for the full lineup and more information on the conference. If you do come, make sure to hit me up. Contact me. I'd love to hang and talk shop. :)

Thursday
Apr162015

My Interview with Christ Hold Fast

I had a blast doing this interview with the insightful guys over at the Christ Hold Fast podcast. I've never had an interview quite like this where we were able to quickly dive into some deep, underserved themes. I do some explaining about how the Reformation's insights about Law and Gospel play into worship, and some important observations are made about how that relates to some missing pieces in the current landscape of evangelical worship today.

Check out the episode, a little under 45 minutes, HERE.

Monday
Apr132015

How Liturgy is Really "The Work *ON* the People"

Four years ago, philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff initiated what would become a change in my perspective on worship by diving into the etymology of an often mis-defined word. We often hear that "liturgy" means "the work of the people." Wolterstorff challenges that:

Etymologically the word leitourgia comes from two Greek words, leitos and ergon, meaning, respectively, “of the people” and “action.”  In numerous books on liturgy it is said, accordingly, that the word originally meant action of the people.  And often nowadays an argument for more participation of the people in the church’s liturgy is based on this claim.  It is said that for something to be liturgy, it must be action of the people and not action of a few priests or pastors.  But the word leitourgia never did mean action of the people.  It meant action for the benefit of the people.  A liturgy was a type of public service.

(Read my earlier post, with more extended quotation, here.) Now why fuss over etymology? Am I just engaging in semantic one-upsmanship? A "glossary gotcha"? No. Lurking in here is a deviant theology as ancient as the earth. 

The Quest for Eden's Back Door

Ever since our father Adam and mother Eve were banished from the garden, they've been trying to circle the earth to get in through the back door. This instinct--the desire to be gods unto ourselves--has been passed on through every generation. You and I bear the "Old Adam" within us. The Old Adam is the one to whom Paul refers often when he is speaking of the "flesh"--especially in a negative context (Paul uses "flesh" in several ways). The Old Adam desires to circumvent every gracious gift of God, not because he doesn't like gifts, but because he likes earning them more than receiving them for free. The Old Adam is the one who rises up within us to stake his claim of worthiness before God. He likes to reference his resume, his record of past successes and works. God's words of Law and Gospel are offensive to him because the former tells him that his works amount to nothing (even his best good works are tainted and sinful), and the latter tells him that God, in Christ, gives him everything anyway. 

Now imagine this fellow lurking in our flesh, pacing back and forth, just waiting for a word to be "called up." He's been benched, but oh, how he itches to put his hands around that bat and take his stand at the plate. There are things we do in worship that can inadvertently call him up. They are words of triumph, such as: "Jesus, I'm living for you every day"; "God, I'm giving it all away for you"; "I surrender all." They are words, which, when used in over-abundance and improperly placed within the narrative of the gospel, become "fighting words" for the Old Adam. They itch his ears. They energize him.

Understanding liturgy as "the work of the people" can be like this. Now, I get that many times, this definition is summoned in contexts where worshipers have become too passive in worship, forgetting that their worship requires intentionality, commitment, and, yes, even effort. But there may be a different way to summon the worship of the people than to rally them around the battle cry, "It's your work!"

Worship as the Work of Jesus

Worship thinker Ron Man has done a great service to us by pouring over a small section of the book of Hebrews in his booklet, Proclamation and Praise: Hebrews 2:12 and the Christology of Worship. Hebrews 2:12 quotes Jesus as saying: "I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise."

As we worship, Jesus is pouring into us His work and power by whispering, speaking, shouting the name of God in our ears. As we sing, Jesus is efforting His song in us. This is what James Torrance meant when he said, "More important than our experience of Christ is the Christ of our experience."* Listen to Torrance's analogy:

Christ does not heal us as an ordinary doctor might, by standing over against us, diagnosing our sickness, prescribing medicine for us to take and then going away, leaving us to get better as we follow his instructions. No, he becomes the patient! He assumes that very humanity which is in need of redemption, and by being anointed by the Spirit in our humanity, by a life of perfect obedience, by dying and rising again, for us, our humanity is healed in him, in his person.**

Now think of it this way. Christ does not sit back, arms folded, (justly) demanding our worship. No, he becomes the worshiper! He assumes His position amongst the people, and in the Spirit cries out "Abba, Father!" on our behalf. Christ is our substitutionary worshiper. The liturgy is, in the deepest sense, His work.

Worship as the Work of the Spirit

It gets even better, though. Hughes Oliphant Old points out,

Worship is far more than a human work. Worship is the work of the Holy Spirit...As the apostle Paul tells us, it is the Holy Spirit who cries out within us when we pray (Rom 8:15-27). The apostle tells us that when we pray, "Our Father," it is the Holy Spirit praying within our hearts (Rom 8:15). The hymns and psalms that are sung in worship are spiritual songs, that is, they are the songs of the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:25; Eph 5:19). Even the preaching of the church is to be in the Spirit (1 Cor 12:8). Jesus promised to us that when we present our testimony before the world it is not we who speak but the Holy Spirit who gives us utterance (Mark 13:11). Christian worship is inspired by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, directed by the Spirit, purified by the Spirit, and bears the fruit of the Spirit. Christian worship is spirit-filled.***

The Old Adam needs to hear far more about the Trinitarian shape of worship's work and far less about his own. Of course, as we're engaging in worship, we're active. Our muscles are employed, our vocal cords sounding, our minds centering, and our hearts aiming. But I'm becoming increasingly convinced that it does very little good to tell people, "Worship is your work, so get to it!"

Perhaps the Reformers' best insight into theology and the human condition was that commands (i.e. the Law) offer no power to fulfill what they ask for; only the gospel does that. God's good Law can tell me to worship, but only His Gospel can actually cause it. It's like the difference between a wife demanding to her husband, "Love me!" (command), versus freely and tenderly saying, "I love you" (gift). Which stokes the husband's love?

Worship as Gottesdienst

The Germans have a delightful word for their worship gatherings. They call Sunday worship "Gottesdienst," or, "Divine Service." With the above understanding of the roles of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we come to realize that liturgy is actually God's work ON the people...God's work IN the people...God's work THROUGH the people. Even our "response" is a gift.

When I hear that worship is my effort to God, I suddenly feel a weight dropped onto my shoulders. But when I hear that worship is God's free gift to me, I suddently feel like, well, worshiping. Fancy that.

*James Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (Downers Grove, IVP: 1996), 34.
**Ibid., 53. 
***Hughes Oliphant Old, Worship: Reformed According to Scripture, rev. ed. (Louisville, WJK: 2002), 5. 


Monday
Mar302015

Sufjan Stevens' Insight Not to Be Missed

A Lot Under the Bus

Author David Roark has published a well-written article about Sufjan Stevens vis-à-vis the "Christian Music" scene. Roark has located the turn from Christians-as-artists to "Christian artists" in the 1960s, with the Jesus Movement's evangelistic objectives and youth culture targeting. The bulk of the article is focused on the dichotomy between what artists like Sufjan are trying to do and what the "Christian Art" world is doing. I appreciate the article, but at the same time I've become weary of such blanket diagnoses that appear to file everything coming out of "the industry" as "bad" and "kitschy." I understand that the need for brevity and clarity in such forums drives the thinking to sharp distinctions, but for me its black-and-whiteness throws too much under the bus that doesn't need to be thrown there. Not all produced within the cubicled four walls of a fabled Nashville office needs to be so blanketly dismissed. Still, I don't want to discount the need for us to charitably make some of the observations that Roark is making.

The Easily-Missed Punchline

People who read the article will probably either take offense or cheer it on. The polarizing nature of its content might cause either party, though, to miss something VERY profound at its end. In many ways, what is said here is THE fundamental insight for Christians in the arts (and, in fact, humans everywhere doing anything):

 “It’s not so much that faith influences us as it lives in us. In every circumstance (giving a speech or tying my shoes), I am living and moving and being. This absolves me from ever making the embarrassing effort to gratify God (and the church) by imposing religious content on anything I do.”

Please, please don't miss this. Here we have bedrock theology packed into what feels like a simple response. Stevens is making a few distinctions worth chewing on. First, faith is less a part of our life and more like an alien living inside of us. Second, this faith "absolves" artists from having to "impose religious content" on what they do. This is profound.

Sufjan Probably Isn't Afraid of Modern Art

It reminds me very much of what made Dan Siedell's Who's Afraid of Modern Art? so unique among conversations about Christianity and the arts (please read my review here). It drills down deep, beyond the conversations about what is "appropriate" or "Christian." It finds that subterranean core that echoes up to the surface its cries to be justified.

Stevens and Siedell remind us that many of our attempts as Christians in making art are really an "embarrassing effort to gratify God." It is always the case that when we are attempting to justify ourselves before God, we end up instrumentalizing, rather than receiving, God's good gifts, whether they be people or art. Perhaps the reason why some Christian art feels so cheesy and kitschy is because we can see through its all too thin sheen, recognizing it as an instrument for something else. When art is so wholeheartedly used for religious purposes (i.e. evangelism or persuasion to a Christian worldview), it forces us to look through it and past it, rather than, as Siedell says, "receive" it. Instruments don't speak; they are used

The Gospel, though, tells us that all our instrumentalizing efforts can cease because God has been gratified. We no longer have to make such embarrassing efforts, extracting art's art-ness to construct a platform to serve our self-salvation projects. God, in Christ, has declared us justified. We don't need to use art to satisfy our evangelism quota so that God will like us. We're free to receive art as a gift, and we're freed to make art from its gifted nature. 

Sufjan's Unlikely Bedfellow

Stevens said, "Logistically I suppose my process of making art is driven less by abstractions of faith or politics and more by practical theory: composition and balance and color.” I find the freedom of this strikingly similar to how Siedell describes 17th century Spanish painter, Diego Velázquez:

Velázquez not only refused to solicit or accept commissions, but he also refused to paint the historical and religious subjects that featured heroes from classical and biblical literature and which traditionally established an artist's reputation.*

This anti-establishment spirit (the same one I sense in Stevens) doesn't seem to be for rebellion's sake (another veiled form of self-justification), but out of a freedom granted from outside oneself. Siedell notes that Velázquez didn't take his paintings too seriously, evidenced by his odd practice of cleaning his brush on the corners of the very canvases on which he painted. I see that same kind of playful spirit in a man who performs quirky folk arrangements on a banjo while wearing bird wings. Siedell asks then answers:

How could a human being so gifted care so little about his gift? Certainly, a human being whose identity is received as grace, whose relationship to God, the world, and himself was not defined by his work as an artist and the paintings he painted.*

Would to God that we could all do our art-making from this starting place. From here, art would be simultaneously free and (most deeply and profoundly) Christian. Indeed, Lord, have mercy.

*Dan Siedell, Who's Afraid of Modern Art (Eugene: Cascade, 2015), 80, 85.

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