Thursday, March 31, 2016

Taking a Beating For the Sake of Sharing Beauty

If you've ever seen The Shawshank Redemption, you'll probably remember this powerful scene: 

Justin Taylor shares the thoughts of Julian Johnson, Regius Chair of Music at Royal Holloway, University of London:
Anyone who knows The Shawhank Redemption will recall the effect of this iconic moment, when the prisoner, Andy Dufresne, locks himself in the prison office and plays a duet from Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro over the PA system. The entire compound comes to a standstill as the strains of the music drift over the exercise yard and hardened prisoners and guards alike stand open-mouthed, silenced by the arresting beauty of a music from a distant place. 
Of course, you might think, any music would have done; music, as a whole, has this capacity to make the imaginary seem palpable, to promise something that exceeds our immediate reality, to recollect the loss of something infinitely valuable. 
But I think it’s significant that the director, Frank Darabont, chose to use Mozart at this moment. The disjunction between the world of classical opera and the brutality of the prison in which the film is set, its very strangeness, is the key to its power to stop “every last man” in its tracks. Part of its beauty, and the incomprehensible power of its fragility, derives from this sense of distance—that this music comes from elsewhere and speaks of a better order of things that, for this brief moment, cuts through the hardened surface of everyday reality at Shawshank. 
The sense is enhanced by the effect of hearing music from an old vinyl record, played through the tinny speakers of the prison PA system, whose normal function is one of repressive control. The hiss and whirr of the record, the distortion of the speakers, combine to create the effect of a music heard from a great distance, not just in place but also in time. The beauty of these voices, it seems, is brought into the present from another age, as an ephemeral restoration of something lost of the past. For “every last man” this music sounds from a quite different world, yet it enters the mind like a distant, long-forgotten memory and the most fragile of future promises. Allowing it to sound through the bars of this “drab little cage” is a deeply transgressive act, for which Dufresne gets two weeks in solitary confinement, and no doubt a beating too.
Professor Johnson uses this as an illustration of why he's written his new book, Who Needs Classical Music? Cultural Choice and Musical Value. It made me think of how the Kingdom of God breaks into the "drab little cage" of this world and "speaks of a better order of things that...cuts through the hardened surface of everyday reality." 

What a powerful parable of what we can and should be! Our communication of the glory of the gospel, our love that incarnates it, our churches displaying a peculiarly beautiful harmony -- music from another age, another Country! When you've heard the beauty of this song, you'll risk a beating to pipe it into the domain of darkness.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Meditate On This

I don't think you'll regret hopping on and riding along with this meditation train.

First, Psalm 12.
Then, Micah 7.

And cap it off by listening to this song by Jon Foreman. It's a rich, artistic meditation on Micah 7. You've got to pay careful attention to the words, and be sure to listen all the way to the end!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

How Affairs Begin

How does an affair begin? One writer may have witnessed one begin while on a recent flight. He writes about it here, warning of 3 elements that make it easier to walk into this life-wrecking trap.

  1. They were isolated.
  2. They lowered their guards.
  3. They made plans to spend time together. 

Don't buy the lies that illicit sex and romance are selling. Instead, buy in -- hook, line, and sinker -- to the wisdom of Proverbs 4-9 (emphasis added):

Proverbs 4:20-23, 25-27
My son, be attentive to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Let them not escape from your sight; keep them within your heart. For they are life to those who find them, and healing to all their flesh. Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life. ... Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil.
Proverbs 6:32-33
He who commits adultery lacks sense; he who does it destroys himself. He will get wounds and dishonor, and his disgrace will not be wiped away.
Proverbs 6:27-29
Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor's wife; none who touches her will go unpunished.
Proverbs 7:21-23
With much seductive speech she persuades him; with her smooth talk she compels him. All at once (does it give you chills?) he follows her, as an ox goes to the slaughter, or as a stag is caught fast till an arrow pierces its liver; as a bird rushes into a snare; he does not know that it will cost him his life.

Friday, March 11, 2016

When Your Child Says, "I Don't Know"

Julie Lowe over at CCEF offers some excellent parenting advice. Here's a taste of where she's headed: a surprisingly young age, children learn they can avoid engaging in thoughtful discussion by giving the notorious "I don't know" response to our questions. 
...We need to find ways to get past such responses and give them insight into their own hearts. Proverbs 20:5 says, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.” The question is how can we draw them out?
She goes on to give several wise methods for drawing out your child. Read on and find some very practical help.