The greatest enemy of hunger for God is not poison but apple pie. It is not the banquet of the wicked that dulls our appetite for heaven, but endless nibbling at the table of the world. It is not the X-rated video, but the prime-time dribble of triviality we drink in every night. For all the ill that Satan can do, when God describes what keeps us from the banquet table of his love, it is a piece of land, a yoke of oxen, and a wife (Luke 4:18–20).
The quote above had only been posted to a Whatsapp group I’m part of for all of an hour before it set off a firestorm. The bone of contention was Anais Nin’s body of work, (probably rightly) deemed inappropriate for the context in which it was posted (it’s a group filled with the super spiritual folk I serve alongside on my church’s tech and media team).
I made a spirited attempt at defending the value of her body of work – risque subject and bohemian lifestyle notwithstanding – a position which left me just short of getting my knuckles rapped. I started typing a lengthy response in the group but did the sensible thing and backed off, taking the time to ponder what I felt was a wider philosophical question: can an artist’s lifestyle be decoupled from their body of work? Or even certain elements of that body work?
I think the answer has to be Yes. I’m a firm believer that one can learn from anything; good, bad or indifferent. This is perhaps never more obvious than in the context of words which can – and should be taken on their own merits, untainted by the trappings and baggage of their author. The test of the validity – and usefulness of words for learning – should be if they clarify any objective realities and are true in any sense of the word. Sometimes, the learning value can be unintended but the point has to be that by drawing a line and proscribing certain works because of their authors, we lose part of the vitality of a robust conversation. For what it’s worth the biblical Solomon lived as wanton a life as could be, one so enamoured of the female body that he warehoused a thousand of them but did manage to contribute two books to the bible, both which are replete with absolute gems which shine a light on human behaviour. His enduring quality has to be the cynicism and candor with which he reflected on life.
Lesson learned – to always consider the wider context and the audience before sharing stuff – I have lived to fight another day 🙂
…Neither saint nor Tzadik nor prophet standing at the gate; he’s just another sinner who has somewhat sharper awareness and uses slightly more precise language to describe inconceivable reality of our world. He doesn’t invent a single feeling or thought – all of them existed long before him… He’s here, at our side, buried up to his neck in mud and filth.
.. A deep work (what happens in you is greater than what happens to you, and is deeper than the workings of the circumstances and situations that frame our daily life), a quick work (God takes a long time to do something quick – as long as it takes for us to turn away from what ever else we look to for help on to Him) and a lasting work (what happens through you is meant to outlast you, and true success is measured by how much it empowers the next generation to extend the work that we do). Or so says the phenomenal Joel A’Bell whom I stumbled on in today’s Hillsong London pitstop..
Was also great to hear the worship team reprise This is Living from the Young & Free Album. Sadly they didn’t get to do the Lecrae rap bit.. 😦
New month, new focus, new energy, given how much February sucked on so many levels…
Do you believe….That God is looking at you regardless of what you’ve done going ‘I’ll buy you back? I know you’re faithless but I never stop being Faithful, pursuing you, loving you… And as long as it is still called today, as long as you’re still breathing, right now you’ve got a chance. I’ll buy you back right now. I’ll take you back… You just lay it at the cross.
Arthur Ashe’s moving memoir ‘Days of Grace’ ends with a heartfelt letter to his (then) six year old daughter Camera in which he unpacks all the things he suspects his illness will deny him the opportunity of telling her in future. Covering a range of categories from the importance of family, racial discrimination, loss, marriage, money and even faith, it reads like a distillation of many years of living and learning. The section where he talks about faith and religion reads like a primer for a balanced, liberal, yet essentially Judeo-Christian worldview. Excerpts below:
…have faith in God. Do not be tempted either by pleasures and material possessions, or by the claims of science and smart thinkers, into believing that religion is obsolete and that the worship of God is somehow beneath you. Spiritual nourishment is as important as physical nourishment, or as intellectual nourishment. The religion you choose is not as important as a fundamental faith in God.
… Beyond the different dogma must be the sense of yourself as created by God for a purpose, and as being under God’s law at all.
… Be ruled by that rule called golden; do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Do not beg God for favours. Instead, ask God for the wisdom to know what is right, what God wants and the will to do it.