Friday as I was driving home from work, I made a lefthand turn onto the highway at which point I recognized the majesty in the sky.  It was one of those sunsets where a spectrum of blue rises to meet purple and gradually darkens to a blackened canopy.  My eyes ought to have been more on the road than up in the sky yet it was hard to ignore that beautiful palette all around me.

By the end of my drive, the sky had darkened to a deep black.  (I am already feeling the dreariness of a an early sunset.  But that’s beside the point…)

It occurred to me that against the black night sky were the full moon’s glow, streetlights over the highway, and hundreds of diminishing tail lights from neighboring cars.  Light against dark.  So are my surroundings light, or are they dark?

Similarly, I noticed that traffic was moving at a steady speed, every car in syncopation with the next.  The red lights progressed forward as a pack. In the same moment, the tree line raced against me, moving backwards.  Yet I sat complacent in a stationary, cushioned seat.  What was truly moving: the cars, or the landscape?

The song on the radio featured a music artist whose voice was auto-tuned and electronically manipulated.  So was a person singing to me or was a computer? (Ok, this one is easy because it was Ke$ha so I’m pretty sure the computer took the reins…)

Ridiculous as these questions are, the answers come down to perspective.  So much depends upon how you interpret the subject.

Earlier in the day I was asked to take a learning style inventory in an attempt to categorize my brain’s patterns of behavior.  One question offered two dissonant answers.  Ugly!  In essence, it suggested that some employees might prefer to receive communication in written form while others might prefer it verbalized, or in person.  Preposterous! I thought.  Of course everyone would like feedback or instructions in written form.  This was proceeded by, How stupid for me to not acknowledge even the simplest of differences among persons.

Man is created in the common imago dei and still no two persons are alike. When so many diverse personalities and preferences exist, the aim is not for me to shape them more like the ideal; instead I need to recognize differences and develop a new perspective in me. Education is not so much found in the subject matter as in the people…no, people are the subject!  We are meant to learn and grow from people who are different from us, not change them.  And your perspective towards others can make all the difference in what, or whether, you learn at all.


Smitten by Sara

Don’t jump to any conclusions just yet…I have not met the woman of my dreams, nor is her name Sara. I do, however, write this post in reference to a favorite female music artist of mine: Sara Bareilles.

I’ve been in a Sara Bareilles phase since I discovered her music late this summer. Her sophomore album debuted recently with the single track hitting the airwaves in August.  Thus, my first week of driving to work was graced by the tune.  The music video was released shortly thereafter with VH1 kindly providing background music to one lonely Saturday morning breakfast.

Since the end of summer, I have been downloading Sara’s music from (uncharacteristic of me considering I still give preference to old-school Compact Discs), watching live performances, and reading her biography.

So why the current interest in this singer?

  • Sara Bareilles has been compared to Norah Jones, Ingrid Michaelson, and Regina Spektor, other favorites for their piano melodies and calmer styles.
  • She asserts her independence while still seeming to have her head in a good place.  For example, her first single “Love Song” was a reaction to producers requesting her to write a love song for the album.  Sara responded in her lyrics, “I’m not gonna write you a love song ‘cuz you asked for it, ‘cuz you need one, you see…”  Consequently, the song made millions after being overplayed on the radio and selling like wildfire.  Guess Sara knew what the public wanted more than her bosses did.
  • Oh, and in her new single she still touts the same sassy attitude, this time in response to her ex.  Among the accusations she sings, “We’ve got opinions, man, we’re all entitled to them, but I never asked.”  Yet instead of composing an angry, bass-loaded song, “King of Anything” remains light-hearted and fun.  Nothing’s going to bring Sara down.

Which leads to the characteristic which I like best.  Sara Bareilles’ music is enjoyable to listen to, some songs would even make for good dancing.  The lyrics are poetic and the music is relaxing despite voicing angry protests. But I’ve come to realize that the most intriguing part about this musician is her ability to communicate a certain playfulness.  She is an adult who lives like a child.  Who wonders like a child.  Who sings about troubling matters as if all it takes is mommy kissing the boo-boo to make everything better.

Looking past her liberal views and occasional spatterings of profanity, I wish I to be more like Sara Bareilles!  And I think God would be pleased, because then He can look down and see someone who finds contentment in everyday living, in all that He has made and done.  I want to be someone whose face radiates, that when others see me they immediately detect the joy of Christ!

The Altar

A favorite poem of mine from George Herbert (1593-1633):

A   broken   ALTAR,   Lord,   thy   servant   rears,
Made   of   a   heart,   and   cemented   with  tears:
Whose  parts are  as  thy  hand  did  frame;
No workman’s tool hath touch’d the same.
A   HEART    alone
Is   such    a   stone,
As      nothing    but
Thy pow’r doth  cut.
Wherefore each part
Of   my  hard   heart
Meets in this frame,
To praise thy  name.
That   if  I   chance  to   hold   thy   peace,
These stones to praise thee may not cease.
O    let    thy     blessed     SACRIFICE    be    mine,
And    sanctify     this    ALTAR    to     be     thine.

Parallelism in John 5

Last entry I broached the subject of poetic verse in scripture.  Even passages which are printed in prose have a certain majesty to them, concealing the Hebrew parallelism that is more commonly recognized in the Psalms.  Here’s a continuation of that thought for the skeptic and the curious alike.

John 5:16-18 suggests that John was speaking out of his Jewish culture.  The A – B – A pattern is a very brief instance of this parallelism.

Continue reading that passage to verses 24-30 – in some Bibles the last two paragraphs under that subheading – and you encounter another example of Hebrew parallelism.  Here’s the section in prose form:

24“I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. 25I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself. 27And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
28“Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29and come out—those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. 30By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.

Then here it is in poetic form.  (Click on the link below to expand the image.)

Ok, my analysis is certain to have some flaws or you might disagree with the labels I have given each section.  I do not claim to be a Bible commentator nor do I pretend to know everything about this passage.

Here’s what I do know, and I share this abstract idea for a purpose.  Dissect the passage and you will be amazed by the delicacy in its craftsmanship.  Jesus – that is, God speaking through the author John – declares in a neat poem who he is and what work he is doing (namely judgment and salvation). Take a step back from the microscope and look at the bigger picture; now with more pieces to the puzzle, with a greater vocabulary, you engage in the act of wonder and worship!

The power in these words is not only what they say but also how they say it! God addresses people of all cultures, from the Jews in the 1st century to average Americans in the 21st century.  We all have the opportunity to hear His voice, and, much like stacking a printed book side-by-side with a movie adaptation, we might even choose whether we want to hear it in poetry or in prose.

Scripture “Verse”

The preceding post entitled “Citing Sources” serves as a prologue to this post. While it is not necessary to read the previous, I still encourage you to do so. Here is a brief summary, whether you have read Steven Faulkner’s article or not:

Poetry is one way of ordering our souls.  It brings tremendous satisfaction to our lives by evoking a sense of wonder.  Wonder leads to love and, likewise, wonder leads to worship.

So how much do you engage the imagination or rouse your sense of wonder? How much poetry do you get in your life?  Perhaps you encounter more poetic verse than you might think.

The Bible contains numerous passages of poetry.  Arranged topically, the Old Testament has the books of Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon.  You can then find other snippets of poetry in Exodus 15, 1 Samuel 2, Luke 1, Revelation 4, and everywhere in between.   But then this literary gopher pops up in places where you would not expect it.  Like a sun hidden behind the clouds, the gigantic gaseous sphere illuminates the sky while we are so accustomed to the façade of clouds that we only see a few rays peeking through.  That is because our 21st century translations appeal to prose.  Print the text however you wish, the bias of the original inspired authors is unavoidable.  The Bible was written by Hebrew people and poetry characterizes how the Hebrews wrote almost anything.

I was reminded of this last night while revisiting John 5:16-30, the selection from scripture which my small group studied this past week.  I was immediately struck by the first few lines which revealed a most intentional parallel structure:

16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him.  17 Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

It follows an A – B – A pattern.

(A) Verse 16: Jesus works on the Sabbath; Jews wish to persecute Jesus

(B) Verse 17: Jesus affirms his work

(A) Verse 18: Jews wish to kill Jesus; Jesus works on the Sabbath

Maybe a coincidence or maybe such a brief passage that parallelism is found by accident.  Or maybe what I am reading is not merely a scripture verse, but an instance of scripture’s poetic verse.

How, then,  do I ever make the excuse that reading the Bible is a bore?  Or that I have read a passage before so I am familiar with what it says?  Why do I neglect memorizing scripture when it is already organized according to a mnemonic pattern?  Short answer: my wonder is too small.

Still not convinced?  Want to see more? Anticipate more illustrations of parallelism in Biblical texts as I publish future blog entries.  And be ready to engage the workshop of worship.

Citing Sources

The name of this blog, much to my regret, is not original.  I borrowed “The Workshop of Worship” from author Steven Faulkner who published a brilliant article under this name in Touchstone Magazine (1996).  It would be appropriate, therefore, to pay tribute to this article in my first official post.  Take 20 minutes to read this if you are able to commit the time and attention. The subject matter at hand is poetry, yet you need not be an English teacher to appreciate or to apply Faulkner’s principles.  I promise you it will be well worth your time.

I am not publishing the article on this blog directly in order to avoid copyright infringement.  However, “The Workshop of Worship” may be found free of charge in Touchstone’s digital archives here:

Putting Myself Out There

Hello all.

Writing a blog is most uncharacteristic of a self-proclaimed, aspiring agrarian.  I know I am being rather contradictory to my character in creating this, but I’ve reached the conclusion that this is the best way to keep a variety of friends and family informed of all that is happening in my life.

Now before I begin writing the chapters to an ongoing story, allow me to preface this with a disclaimer.  I do not intend for this to be an online journal or a social networking tool.  The world is already too small for my ego and my pride does not need a boost from the attention or comments that online readers habitually offer.  Save all of that for Facebook.  The “Workshop of Worship” is my attempt to offer more than just a play-by-play of daily affairs.  I hope to surpass the monotony of my life and write on things that cause me to wonder, to worship.  And as I wander from moment to moment, day to day, I wish to share with you the vulnerable thoughts and heart-rendering events which I experience, the things which otherwise might be kept private.  Because I believe God gives me certain episodes or insights which are not for self alone, but to be shared and celebrated with other people.  (And I can’t physically be present with all of you at once.)  In the end, these discoveries and devotions will bring glory to God, whether you choose to participate with me or not.

And so I invite you to wander alongside me in this life, in this blog, as one hyper-analytical, idea-driven individual develops a Workshop of Worship, where a picture speaks a thousand words, a crayon unlocks an imagination, a scripture verse releases thousands of truths, and an encounter initiates a relationship.