Sparkling Lights and Great Longings

My great and burning longing as a Christian leader and artist is this:

Because many of the great Christian leaders, writers and reformers that have burst through the ranks of literary and cultural influence have tended to rise through conflict, and by personality carry on a significant personal battle with pride, they address it most frequently, and have convinced the whole Church that the greatest battle we each face is the twisted impulse that elevates oneself above God.

For our Church-historical leaders and influencers to rise through the ranks of significant cultural impact often means that one has what psychologists call “ego-strength,” a strong sense of “I” in the world. In the face of the “We” world that we believe as Christians exists in our Genesis origin’s narrative, individuality in community gave way to the horrors of individualism above community, striking the very architecture of creation toward decay.

I contend that most Christian leaders who have influenced the Church’s (and world’s) view of the Christian life to date, when historically viewed, have tended to see themselves as having primarily a battle with pride, and have afforded it primary biblical and historical Church status as the “original sin.”

I’m beginning to disagree, humbly, though I hold a value for the shared wisdom of Church history and have high regard for the outfleshings of tradition. I propose that many human beings’ greatest issue may not primarily swing to that end of the human pendulum.

If pride and unbelief are the “core” malformations we endure from the EdenFall incident, as some have suggested, I propose that one came before the other, and still primarily rules many hearts – unbelief. Such hearts will not tend to rise through the ranks – the proud battle anger and work harder in the face of conflict, the unbelieving battle fear and recoil in the face of conflict. If conflict marks the life of an influencer, some less-proud voices make it through, while others don’t.

While indeed pride is close to the core of us all, and as Francis Shaeffer put it, we are indisputably “bent,” I personally struggle with the issue of unbelief, and have seen that struggle in many of those I’ve pastored through the years, that may be more at the core of the human condition, and more primarily in line for remedy.

In my estimation, it is our low view of ourselves that has been the most original evil. Thinking we are not what we are, majestic sons and daughters of God, sparkling lights among the lesser glories of creation, we strove to become something more.

In other words, I’m not so sure that pride was the only distortion of human perspective that occurred in that fateful moment in Eden. The inflation of pride, I suggest, may have been triggered first by a horrible deflation – a deflation of regard for ourselves and our majestic role in the Community of God in the environs of an earth made for our joy and care.

Sons and daughters of God forget not only who God was, but also who they themselves are. To my mind, unbelief is as base a brutality to the soul as pride has ever been.

I long for writings, and to write myself, living lessons and flights of art that cultivate our sense of personal majesty in the light of God – not diminishing God by this recognition, but rather amplifying His glory by living in the center, led by His guidance and with regard for His higher stature, of our own glory.

Birthed in His own image, to see ourselves for the stunning craft we are, and then to glory in it in all human expression, as we give the highest of praise to God and live bowed down and grateful in His presence, is the truest worship.

In addition to this, our continued elevation of the life to come (a principle I greatly affirm and suggest should shape our lives in the now), may be pulling us (those movements who disdain the “now”, the secular (from saecularum, meaning “in the moment”) away from greatness in the present – architecture, art, theatre, music and extended life works that take resource and extensive energies and support. A cathedral that is open to the poor enables them to feed on beauty as they worship whenever they desire.

Could we amplify and magnify God, and in turn, and to do this better, amplify and magnify our human creativity? Can we worship God, and call humankind to it’s highest stature as the reflections of God into the world, at the same time – without believing that we are diminishing, but rather magnifying, the person of God? I perceive this to have been Jesus’ primary mission, while addressing the proud along the way.

In essence, I’m suggesting that we weight our approach to Christianity toward a via positiva that primarily embraces and encourages the raw essence and passions of humanity while encouraging biblical restraint, rather than a via negativa that primarily encourages and emphasizes that we control and restrain our essence and passions while occasionally encouraging the expression of passion.


Sheltering Mercy: Prayers Inspired by the Psalms

Sheltering Mercy, along with its companion volume, Endless Grace, helps us rediscover the rich treasures of the Psalms—through free-verse prayer renderings of their poems and hymns—as a guide to personal devotion and meditation.

The church has always used the Psalms as part of its prayer life, and they have inspired countless other prayers. This book contains 75 prayers drawn from Psalms 1-75, providing lyrical sketches of what authors Ryan Smith and Dan Wilt have seen, heard, and felt while sojourning in the Psalms. Each prayer is a response to the Psalms written in harmony with Scripture. These prayers help us quiet our hearts before God and welcome us into a safe place amid the storms of life.

This artful, poetic, and classic devotional book features compelling custom illustrations and foil-stamped hardcover binding, offering a fresh way to reflect on and pray the Psalms.