A Quote Off My Shelf

These are more and longer quotes than I typically post but they were too beautiful to abbreviate or reduce. A.S. Peterson’s concluding sequel met and exceeded all of my expectations. The book will shatter your soul then gently, tenderly mend it together again.  The motif of music is strong throughout the book and captures best the book’s themes of redemption, of beauty coming out of suffering and sin, and of longing for home and a Love that conquers all.

“Turn it all to beauty.

She walked to the rail. When she turned and sat upon it, she heard a sailor in the crowd murmur that she might play them a tune. She hoped he was right. She needed the voices to be wrong. Fin raised the instrument to the cleft of her neck and closed her eyes. She emptied her mind and let herself be carried back to her earliest memory, the first pain she ever knew: the knowledge that her parents didn’t want her. The despair of rejection coursed through her. It fathered a knot of questions that bound her, enveloped her. Waves of uncertainty and frailty shook her to the bones. Her body quivered with anger and hopelessness. She reeled on the edge of a precipice. She wanted to scream or to throw her fists but she held it inside; she struggled to control it. She fought to subjugate her pain, but it grew. It welled up; it filled her mind. When she could hold it no more, exhausted by defiance and wearied by years of pretending not to care, Bartimaeus’s words surrounded her.

Got to turn it beautiful.

She dropped her defenses. She let weakness fill her. She accepted it. And the abyss yawned. She tottered over the edge and fell. The forces at war within her raced down her arms and set something extraordinary in motion; they became melody and harmony: rapturous, golden. Her fingers coaxed the long-silent fiddle to life. They danced across the strings without hesitation, molding beauty out of the miraculous combination of wood, vibration, and emotion. The music was so bright she felt she could see it. The poisonous voices were outsung. Notes raged out of her in a torrent. She had such music within her that her bones ached with it, the air around her trembled with it, her veins bled it. The men around fell still and silent. Some slipped to the deck and sat enraptured like children before a travelling bard.

…It throbbed and pulsed, channeled by elemental forces of fear, love, hope, and sadness. The bow stabbed and flitted across the strings in a violent whorl of creation; its hairs tore and split until it seemed the last strands would sever in a scrape of dissonance. Those who saw the last fragile remnants held their breath against the breaking. The music rippled across the ship like a spirit, like a thing alive and eldritch and pregnant with mystery. The song held. More than held, it deepened. It groaned. It resounded in the hollows of those who heard. Then it softened into tones long, slow, and patient and reminded men of the faintest stars trembling dimly in defiance of a ravening dark. At the last, when the golden hairs of the bow had given all the sound they knew, the music fled in a whisper. Fin was both emptied and filled, and the song sighed away on the wind.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pgs. 79-81, Rabbit Room Press.

 

“What do you know of the Knights?” he asked.

Fin shrugged. “I thought knights were only in children’s stories until a few days ago.” Jeannot smiled.

“A man could do worse than to live in the stories of a child. There is, perhaps, no better remembrance.”

“Until the child grows up and finds out the stories aren’t true. You might be knights, but I don’t see any shining armor,” Fin said.

Jeannot stopped near the gate of the auberge and faced her. “Each time a story is told, the details and accuracies and facts are winnowed away until all that remains is the heart of the tale. If there is truth at the heart of it, a tale may live forever. As a knight, there is no dragon to slay, no maiden to rescue, and no miraculous grail to uncover. A knight seeks the truth beneath these things, seeks the heart. We call this the corso. The path set before us. The race we must run.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pg. 147 Rabbit Room Press.

 

She chased the song like a hound fast upon a scent. She pursued it through a forest primeval: a dark land planted with musical staves and rests and grown thick with briars of annotation. On she went and on still until she caught sight of the song ahead of her, fleeting and sly. “I see it,” she said aloud, though she didn’t mean to.

…And then she caught the song. She fell upon it and music poured from the fiddle’s hollow, bright and liquid like fire out of the heart of the earth. Pierre-Jean drew back and stood mesmerized. The room around Fin stirred as every ear bent to the ring of heartsong. It rushed through Fin and spread to the outermost and tiniest capillary reaches of her body. Her flesh sang. The hairs of her arms and neck roused and stood. She sped the bow across the strings. Her fingers danced on the fingerboard quick as fat raindrops. Every man in the room that night would later swear that there was a wind within it. They would tell their children and lovers that a hurricane had filled the room, toppled chairs, driven papers and sheets before it and blew not merely around them but through them, taking fears, grudges, malice, and contempt with it, sending them spiraling out into the night where they vanished among the stars like embers rising from a bonfire.

And though the spirited cry of the fiddle’s song blew through others and around the room and everything in it, Fin sat at the heart of it. It poured into her. It found room in the closets and hollow places of her soul to settle and root. It planted seeds: courage, resolve, steadfastness. Fin gulped it in, seized it, held it fast. She needed it, had thirsted for it all her days. She saw the road ahead of her, and though she didn’t understand it or comprehend her part in it, she knew that she needed the ancient and reckless power of a holy song to endure it. She didn’t let the music loose. It buckled and swept and still she clung to it, defined it in notes and rhythm, channeled it like a river bound between mountain steeps. And a thing happened then so precious and strange that Fin would ever after remember it only in the formless manner of dreams. The song turned and spoke her name—her true name, intoned in a language of mysteries. Not her earthly name, but a secret word, defining her alone among all created things. The writhing song spoke it, and for the first time, she knew herself. She knew what it was to be separated out, held apart from every other breathing creature, and known. Though she’d never heard it before and wouldn’t recall it after, every stitch of her soul shook in the passage of the word, shuddered in the wake of it, and mourned as the sound sped away. In an instant, it was over. The song ended with the dissonant pluck of a broken string.

Peterson, A. S. (2010-12-07). Fiddler’s Green (Fin’s Revolution) pg. 174, 175 Rabbit Room Press.

I noticed that Goodreads only had one quote from this beautiful book. That simply wouldn’t do, so I added 22 more. 😉 You can see more quotes here. 

The Injudicious Eye

This is the third post in a five-part series on Aesop’s Fables. You can read this post independently from the others or you can read the introduction here for more background on the history and use of Aesop’s Fables and catch up on the first fable I examined here.

THE SNAIL AND THE STATUE

snail

A Statue of the Medicean Venus was erected in a grove sacred to Beauty and the Fine Arts. Its modest attitude, its elegant proportions, assisted by the situation in which it was placed, attracted the regard of every delicate observer. A Snail, who had fixed himself beneath the molding of the pedestal, beheld with an evil eye the admiration it excited. Wherefore, watching his opportunity, he strove, by trailing his filthy slime over every limb and feature, to obliterate those beauties that he could not endure to hear so much applauded. An honest Linnet, however, who observed him at his dirty work, took the freedom to assure him that he would infallibly lose his labor: “For although,” said he, “to an injudicious eye, thou mayest sully the perfections of this finished piece; yet a more accurate and close inspector will admire its beauty, through all the blemishes with which thou hast endeavored to disguise it.”

It is the fate of envy to attack even those characters which are superior to its malice

Many applications could here be drawn but I would like to focus on just three:

(1) the glory of God in essence
(2) the glory of God manifested in Man
(3) the glory of God manifested in the Earth

(1) The Glory of God in Essence

The fable of the Snail and the Statue reminds me of a quote from C. S. Lewis, in his book, The Problem of Pain:

“A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

This is both a sobering and liberating thought–we can’t mess up the glory of God and neither can anyone else. Yes, we pursue holiness. Yes, we defend the Word of God when it is reviled. Yes, we desire for the glory of God to be manifested in all the earth. But the pressure is off. The fear is gone. We can listen to the blasphemous venom of a man like Richard Dawkins, spewing hatred and slander against Yahweh and walk away with our chins up, knowing that no slime he can manufacture will deface the beautiful image of God and that there will come a time when all the slime shall be scraped away and all shall see Him as He is.

2. The Glory of God Manifested in Man

I have written elsewhere:

It has been said: “To err is human, to forgive divine.

But by what authority do we redefine humanity? When we sin, we do not merely dishonor God in the same way that the stranger at the department store dishonors the woman behind him when he allows the door to slam shut in her face. When we sin, we blaspheme God’s image branded on us, we violate and misrepresent the humanity God created good like an ambassador speaking other than the words given to him to deliver. It is not in human nature to err but in corrupted human nature.

Sin is the ugly slime that sullies the image of God in man but it does not deface it, only obscures it. The “accurate and close inspector” will see beyond the slime, looking to Christ as the spotless representation of of Manhood as God designed it to be and look forward to the day the distortion will be removed.

3. The Glory of God Manifested in the Earth

As again, I’ve written before:

“…by what authority do we declare God’s good creation, the Earth, “evil”? Who are we, forgiven wretches, to declare something irredeemable? Will not the Earth, upon whom we brought a curse by our own transgression, also be finally liberated from corruption?

{Romans 8:19-22} For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”

There is much confusion among Christians as to what “worldliness” is. Many mistake physicality and pleasure for worldliness. But worldliness does not reside in things or places but in affections. “You lust and do not have”, James tells us, “so you bite and devour one another”.

The problem is not with “the world” as in “the physical Earth”, but what depraved human beings do in it.

Dr. Bob Gonzales makes the following point:

“John describes “the world” and “all that is in the world” not primarily in terms of “things” or even “deeds” but in terms of heart affections and attitudes.

This is seen in at least two ways. First, John’s prohibition is directed toward the heart, not toward a particular object or activity. He doesn’t say, “Don’t touch such and such” or “Don’t drink such and such” or “Don’t listen to such and such.” The Greek word translated “love” refers to an attitude, affection, or inclination of the heart. Second, John’s description of “all that is in the world” does not refer to material objects or to human activities per se but to the way in which we view such objects or activities. Movie theaters, electric guitars, sports cars, dancing, drinking beer, smoking cigars and card playing are not the real problem.

The real culprit is the human heart: “For all that is in the world–the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world” (emphasis added). This is not to deny that worldliness manifests itself in “worldly” behavior. Verse 17 implies that behavior is a component of loving the world. But John zeros in on the essence of worldliness and defines it primarily as a matter of the heart.”

So “loving the world” is about loving the sinful-world system: its measure of success, its value-structure, its aspirations of self-glory–not a list of physical activities.

It’s a subtle form of Gnosticism (the belief that matter is evil and anything spiritual is holy) that urges for separation from external manifestations or associations of evil as the sum of godliness.

The Devil has no power to create–only to pervert, no power to design anew only to misappropriate the old. To an “injudicious eye” the image of many of God’s gifts are sullied. But the Devil didn’t create sex–God did. The Devil didn’t create alcohol–God did. The Devil didn’t create music–God did. Don’t give the Devil more credit than he deserves. His chief power lies in making good things ultimate things and in offering good things in wrong ways and wrong places. “A more accurate and close inspector will admire its beauty, through all the blemishes with which [the Devil] hast endeavored to disguise it.”

The material earth is not something we must flee in order to be godly.

We should look forward to the day when at the passing of this present earth, a New Heavens and Earth are created, the Earth and its gifts living once more in harmony with the dwelling place and character of God, a living portrait of what God first created the natural world to be. It will be a day when the Earth too, and all her gifts, shall have the slime wiped away from her name.

What other applications do you draw from this fable?

Two Weeping Kings

Awhile back, I was introduced to the talents of Eric Whitacre and his evocative song “When David Heard”, by my composer-friend, Zachary Horner (if you get the chance, be sure to check out his Sound Cloud account for samples of his own amazing work), and continue to be fascinated by the song’s depth and intensity conjured up by–most astounding!–the singing of just a single verse from 2nd Samuel.

“When David heard that Absalom was slain he went up into his chamber over the gate and wept, my son, my son, O Absalom my son, would God I had died for thee!” (2nd Sam. 18:23 KJV)

The song is brimming with emotion. It was nearly too much for me to bear the first time I heard it. When the voices got loud my eyes started to fill and I had the wild impulse to rip my earbuds out, cover my ears and run. I could picture it all–the gut-wrenching grief like voices screaming in my ears, chasing me down, hunting me like a wild animal then, as the voices quieted I could feel the loneliness creeping in like a quiet mist. I could see the memory of the long march back home, the uncertain glances from the soldiers as they watched their brave warrior-king retreat within himself, his eyes glazing over, unresponsive to those around him, uncaring of where he went next, his thoughts consumed by the one who was not with them, the son whom he loved and was dead. It was like a darkness had fallen over the whole company.

Later, it felt like a dream. It was easy for me to imagine King David waking up, panting, sweat glistening on his brow and sitting up in bed only for the silence to tear his soul more than his dream. I could feel the coldness, the unresponsiveness of the palace stone walls. I could feel the cry for answers, the despair, the emptiness.

In the final minute of the piece, it was as if the shepherd-king was standing on one of his many balconies, looking out over the business of the city, listening to the voices bubbling up from the market square and remembering all that once was. Time has passed and the gut-wrenching grief has passed, leaving behind only a dull ache.

He can never forget.
He can’t simply move on.
He can’t explain why.
It just is.

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The Profanity of Christian Films (that aren’t really Christian)

The Redemption of Henry Myers

Photo Aug 05, 8 58 42 PM

Network Premier: March 23rd, 2014
DVD release: June 10th, 2014
Dove Rating: 5 Stars for ages 12+
My Rating: 1 star for discerning audiences only

Photo Aug 14, 8 27 48 PM

It was a better quality film than most Independent Christian Films I’ve seen. The acting was decent, the cinematography was good. It was watchable…which is definitely a step in the right direction production-wise but can also be alarming if the message isn’t good.

The Redemption of Henry Myers was a film I wanted to like–and did enjoy at first. All the right elements were in place: basic character development, a solid character arc, endearing protagonist with shady backstory, antagonists out to get main character, main character that has to make big decision, plot twist that escalates tension, gripping scenes of powerful emotion, and finally, the heart-warming redemption of the main character that we’ve been expecting since reading the movie’s title. But all of this marked by the simplicity and profound naiveté characteristic of a manuscript written by a thirteen-year old girl. I’ve read a few, so I should know–heck, I’ve written a few!

But what passes as naiveté in thirteen-year-old girls is bad theology in adults. We are called to a higher level of discernment and must sift and test even the films that at first seem “good.”

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