Emily Dickinson, that most elusive of souls. At one moment you feel like you’ve touched hearts with hers and find a kindredness, at the next you feel baffled trying to figure if she really meant that heretical thing she just said. I feel wary of many works of criticism on Emily Dickinson because they easily reduce her to her eccentricities. What I found in Kristen LeMay’s treatise I Told My Soul to Sing is a willingness to walk with Emily soul to soul allowing her to be her most brilliant, human, spiritually sensitive, yet fearlessly questioning self.
The only thing I knew about Eugene Peterson before I picked up this book was that he was behind the Message. So I imagined him as a hip, young, guy with maybe a bit too modern taste for my view. But, his reference to Gerard Manley Hopkins in the title of his newest book, As Kingfishers Catch Fire hinted to me that there might be more to this–as I’ve come to learn–aged theologian and life-long pastor than I had discovered. It turns out he embraces the poem of the same name by Hopkins because it marked a shift in his thinking, one of those moments that change the trajectory of a life-time. He suddenly understood with Hopkins that we are born to reflect Christ from the inward to the outward; that this unity between in the inner and outer life allows us to live out “what I do is me, for that I came”. Despite my early skepticism, I now align Peterson in my thoughts with modern truth-bearers like Tim Keller and John Piper. A man who offers thoughtful, Christ-enlarging, heart-probing insights into scripture and Christian living.
If you are drawn to a sacramental view of this world, centered upon the incarnation of Christ in the flesh, you will appreciate the worship-stirring perspective that The Ecumenism of Beauty gives voice to. If you like to sit and think, this book will satisfy your craving for deeper knowledge on the subject of Christian art from a variety of angles.
I don’t think I’m the only one longing for “home”. But when we break it down, what are we really wanting?
“Lord, what you do not do remains undone.
If you will not help, I will gladly surrender.
The cause is not mine.
I will happily be your mask and disguise,
if only you will do the work. Amen.”
— Martin Luther
I recommend this relatively short read to not only any lover of Hopkins’ work, but anyone who wants to see Christ more clearly in the world around them as Hopkins did. I would not be surprised if he possessed this vision more clearly than anybody else in history.
We have spoken of art as a means to enrich the imagination as we turn towards God, allowing us to connect with him more honestly and with understanding. Religious poetry shapes us in this way also, if not even more directly. Hopkins, Donne, Dickinson, and many of the Romantics–who even without intension speak of God’s world as if stripping a veil–have been my gateway to a sacramental appreciation for life. I would like to think that spiritual sensitivity did not end with them.
Perhaps an image immediately comes to mind when I speak of feasting your eyes on art. For instance, the captivating gaze of Girl With a Pearl Earring, or the striking color palette of a Matisse. Now take this same idea and think of feasting on God–mulling his characteristics over in different lights, and celebrating our dance of living in response to God’s presence. This is the opportunity that sacred art offers. Respected art historian Timothy Verdon has dedicated his masterful work Art and Prayer to helping us receive sacred art as a gateway to prayer.
Hooray for crafting that does not require pre-existing skills! To this end Harvest is a compendium of ideas, a little taste of everything, and a way to dabble in DIY to find out what interests may surprise you.
“I have often been asked if my Christianity affects my stories, and surely it is the other way around; my stories affect my Christianity, restore me, shake me by the scruff of the neck, and pull this straying sinner into an awed faith.” ~Madeleine L’Engle