Advent & Suffering: silent only for a time [GUEST POST]


richmond-mary-snow

[Here's another post by my good friend and occasional blog contributor Austin Ricketts. In light of last week's shooting in Connecticut, it takes on even more meaning.]

“I was mute and silent, I refrained even from good. And my sorrow grew worse…I have become mute, I do not open my mouth, because it is you who have done it. Remove your plague from me; because of the opposition of your hand I am perishing”

These words are painful. They hit the reader with sadness and little hope. The Psalm itself does not end on a happy note:

“Turn your gaze away from me, that I may smile again before I depart and am no more.”

Why all this talk of sorrow during this time of year, a time that should be joyous and celebratory? It’s safe to say that many will not feel the joy that should be felt during this Advent. Many will feel that deep turning feeling in their stomach, the beginning of depression, the weight in the center of their back.

Not all see the light.
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Christianity: paradox & Paradise, fall & Fall


I had the privilege of spending a long weekend these past few days in western Pennsylvania under the kindness and hospitality of my girlfriend and her family. It’s a place that is hard to describe without falling into cliches of big sky, clear air, and bright stars. It’s near the area that Johann Jacob Burkhardt, my first ancestor in America, settled in 1754 after sailing from Germany and landing in Philadelphia exactly a week ago today. I made almost the exact same trek as Johann and his family, from the rivers of Philly to the rural countryside of unsettled Pennsylvania.

Strangely, in the rest of Pennsylvania that I have seen, the trees are still mostly green and just starting to turn for the Fall. But here, this weekend marked the peak of that beautiful transition. The pictures above and below should testify to this (click them for larger versions). They were taken only a couple of days ago–with my phone (fun fact: the picture directly above this text was taken from Mt. David, the highest point in Pennsylvania).

I can’t express to you the beauty my eyes and soul were able to behold.
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Enjoying Beauty{9}, Part I: Praise it.


Sargent - Claude Monet Painting in a Garden

We’re almost done! This is the home stretch of the series. After this, there are three more posts in this series on beauty. Then maybe a summary-conclusion article. Last time, we talked about what it looks like to contemplate Beauty. Here, we ask why we contemplate it and what the implications of this answer are. So, why do we contemplate Beauty?

So we can enjoy it to the fullest.

Our text says that God’s gift to man is the ability and call to enjoy and take pleasure in all things, even our vain toiling and strivings of heart. After contemplation, there comes the time when we must engage with what we have contemplated. Even in Christianity, our theological study and discovery of who God is is not complete until actually close the Bible, look up, and enjoy this revealed God. But how? What does this enjoyment look like? Well, as I’ve thought about it, I’ve broken down enjoyment into four different stages. To enjoy Beauty, we Praise it, Participate in it, Proclaim it, and Produce more beauty. Let’s break this down:

First, we praise the beautiful things.

This seems fairly simple at first, but it has a deeper level to it. In its external form, praising the beauty of something is as simple as calling it beautiful. But what about nature? Or art? Or a book? or poem? Perhaps the original artist is dead or not available for you to say to them, “Hey, that’s beautiful.” Those cases help show us that “praise” goes deeper than mere words. “Praise”, more accurately, is a turning of affections toward the object of the beauty before you. It’s acknowledging beauty at the deepest part of who you are. Now, don’t worry. I’m distinguishing between the affections we turn towards these things and the affections we have for God. Those that have been changed by God to see His Beauty have had their deepest affections changed so that God is highest in those affections. But it’s okay to have an affection for things that God loves and has affections for. Having affection for His Church, His people, your family, and Beauty (even the Beauty of quote-unquote “non-religious” things) is completely in line with someone who has been changed by God to see Him as most beautiful. The implications of this more accurate idea of “praising” are huge. First, it means that you can be “praising” with your lips and not actually be praising. It also means that you can be praising something fully, accurately, and appropriately without ever having uttered a word. Imagine staring at a beautiful piece of art. It’s just you and the art while everything else fades away, and every distraction disappears. In that moment, as your affection swells for this thing of Beauty, you are calling it beautiful – you are praising.

In the next few days we’ll discuss what it looks like to Participate in Beauty.  This will be a much longer, more developed idea.  And my favorite way of enjoying Beauty.  So until then…

Here are the manuscript and lecture that this series is based off of.

Click for Manuscript Pdf

Manucscript

Click here for sermon audio

Audio

Free Anathallo Hymns Album


Apparently, today was the day that Brent Thomas of Holiday At The Sea (formerly Colossiansthreesixteen.com) decided to start his blog over (you can read why here).  So why does this warrant me writing a post?  Well, Brent was the one hosting a free album by the amazing band Anathallo.  Upon a quick glance at the new site, I didn’t see him express any intention of reposting those songs.  So, I’ll be glad to do it myself.  Here they are. Just right click the names and save:

Tracks:

Here is Brent’s old post telling the story of this album:

The Greek word anathallo means “To renew, cause to grow, or bloom again,” which is an appropriate umbrella for the band of that name. The band’s music is hard to categorize but yet familiar, experimental yet accessible and often focuses on the themes of renewal and redemption.

In 2004, the band recorded an EP simply entitled “Hymns,” a surprisingly sparse and traditional take on six hymns. The short release demonstrates the band’s loving attention to detail and the creation of ambiance and emotion, not simply through the lyrics but also the music itself. Incorporating many of the harmonies and odd instrumentations of their other releases the release, for the most part, remains true to the hymns themselves and honoring their content. The presentation is both humble and heartfelt, something missing in many “worship” recordings of late.

This was a limited release with all proceeds going to support a homeless mission. It remains out of print (and from what I understand, will not be reprinted) and therefore remains a mystery to many. I was lucky enough to purchase one of the few available copies several months ago and with the band’s permission, I am making the entire release available for download.

May these draw you nearer to Christ.  Be sure to thank the band for their generosity.