Monthly Archives: March 2009

Creativity and prayer: An interview with author Ellen Morris Prewitt


Ellen Morris Prewitt‘s work has appeared in several literary magazines, including Image, North Dakota Quarterly, Texas Review, Brevity, and Relief. Her book, Making Crosses: A Creative Connection to God, will be released by Paraclete Press on April 1.

LiturgicalCredo recently emailed Prewitt a few questions, and she graciously replied.

You started this new practice of making crosses after 9/11. How did you arrive at the idea to make that first cross, what was it made of, and what did it look like?

Earlier, before September 11, when I’d found my personal life in disarray, I’d picked up the pieces – literally – and begun making vignettes from the scattered debris. I used whatever was at hand to tell small stories, and the frame on which the pieces were glued was an integral part of the story. When I needed something more after 9/11, the cross was the “frame” I turned to. One of my earliest crosses was made from the louvres of a shutter I had used as a dog gate, with fabric glued onto the crossbeams. My first “outdoor” cross was a three-pointed stick I found in my driveway. To adorn it, I threaded straight pins through tiny fake pearls and added leftover silver trim to make a scepter for what I named a “Royal Diedam” cross. It is hard to adequately describe how halting these early crosses were. They were very complicated, with many things stuck and glued onto them. Interestingly, over time, as the practice has deepened, the crosses have grown simpler. The principle of using whatever I find discarded in the world is stronger than ever.

You say that Making Crosses teaches the reader how to make a personal cross. What kinds of things can a personal cross represent?

A personal cross can represent whatever the person brings to God while making the cross. My motto is that these are not “Nicene Creed Crosses: I belive in God the Father, God the Son, . . .” but are “Lord’s Prayer Crosses: Give us this day our daily bread.” As a result, we’ve seen in the workshops pain, celebration, delight, deep insight – so many, many things. One of my most personal crosses was entitled, “It may be the Trinity, but Only Jesus had to Die,” a cross embedded with nails and staple “tombstones” which came out of my grief at the fully human sacrifice Jesus made for us. I love the description below of a cross one my workshop participants made, “Dancing in the Wind”:

My relationship with God is never static; it is like dancing with the wind: sometimes gentle and warm, or breezy, playful and impish. At other times – when I try to lead the dance myself – I struggle just to hang on under the cold, fast wind. Then God coaxes me back into the rhythm of life.

- Evelyn Baker, workshop participant

I am setting up a website, http://www.makingcrosses.com, that offers a “cross making community” where you can become a member and share your cross making experiences. I am hoping that folks will join in the community, and we will see even more fully what a personal cross can represent.

How is making a cross similar to praying? How do you think understanding comes from doing?

I think of cross making as a type of prayer, if you define prayer as spending time with God, which I do. It is very interactive prayer, to me, because you are asking and asking and God is answering and answering. Many of the questions are along the lines of, what am I supposed to do with this? When God tells you, there usually comes with it the “why.” “Because I want you to celebrate gratitude.” “Because the beauty is always tempered with the sacrifice that brought it.” The understanding is very much wrapped up with the physical thing you are creating; much of the explanation lies in the visual. Sometimes the understanding doesn’t come in the two-hour workshop; but participants have stopped me later to say, now I know why.

Also, it’s interesting to me how my focus on thrown-away material that the world considers worthless has affected the rest of my life. I’m not sure I would have been so taken with the “sustainability theology” if I hadn’t been practicing seeing all the world as God’s creation in making crosses. That is a level of “understanding from doing” that I could not have predicted, but for which I am grateful.

Have you witnessed others being transformed by this process of making a personal cross? What kind of transformations took place?

I have seen people quietly amazed at the difference in where they began in the cross making experience, and where they ended up, the road between being paved with the workings of the Holy Spirit. I’ve seen the most wonderfully creative crosses made by those who consider themselves uncreative people. I had one woman tell me if she’d understood exactly what we were doing, she wouldn’t have come, and how much the experience meant to her. I also had one woman for whom the cross making just didn’t take; interestingly, she was from the arts community. In general, this is my favorite part of the cross making workshops: when people tell the story of their crosses, looking with wonder at the crosses they have created, rejoicing in something that they didn’t know about themselves.

I also have to say that, for me, the most basic transformation is that I am here, talking about God in public. For most of my life, that would not have happened. Because of this, I warn readers that cross making may affect your life!

How does the process of making crosses relate to your work as a writer?

Someone once told me that all writers should have a creative outlet that doesn’t involve words. In a way, the cross making is that for me, an alternative process of creating that doesn’t depend on linear, analytic thinking. More profoundly, it is a practice I go to when I need quality time with God. When I’m making crosses, I get away from what has become my work – writing – and I go to something that has so little worldly purpose. I guess you could look at the cross making as a “taking in,” where writing is a “letting out.” The similarity is that, in both instances I rely on God to navigate. I can do this in cross making, I can do it in writing; I hope one day to be better able to do it in all aspects of my life.

Visit Prewitt’s Web site or view the Making Crosses page at the Paraclete Press site.

Unusual charity: PimpThisBum.com


I saw a segment on CNN’s American Morning about PimpThisBum.com, an unusual way to help the homeless.

The founders of the Web site decided to pick one homeless person and feature him on their Web site. Folks could go online and purchase various food items, clothing, and grooming services for the guy.

Now, the first “bum” has turned his life around, and the site is focusing on a second homeless man.

Check out the site, and then ask yourself:

Could we do something like this in the Wilmington, N.C. / Myrtle Beach, S.C. / Charleston, S.C. areas?

Bono: ‘I don’t go to church for the view’


In the March 19 edition of Rolling Stone, the second-to-last paragraph of the cover story on U2 starts out with a discussion of the song “Moment of Surrender” from the new album:

“Moment of Surrender” tells the tale of a lost soul, borrowing an Alcoholics Anonymous term for the moment an addict admits helplessness. “The character in the song is a junkie, so that’s where I got it,” says Bono, who has written about heroin addiction before, most famously on “Bad” from The Unforgettable Fire. “I’ve been surrounded a lot in my personal life by addiction — in the last few years, in particular,” Bono says. “I know a lot of people — not least the bass player in the band — who has had to deal with their demons in courageous ways.” (In the Nineties — around the time he was engaged to Naomi Campbell — [bass player Adam] Clayton grappled with alcoholism, and went to AA himself.) “And maybe there’s a part of me that thinks, ‘Wow, I’m just an inch away’,” Bono continues. “There’s no doubt about the fact that I have a wild streak and I’d be very capable of setting fire to myself. So, you know, I don’t go to church for the view.”

Out of the mouths of babes: my daughter on atheism


“People who don’t believe in God, they should feel sorry for themselves, because God made them alive.”

-Audrey, age 6

Recently, Audrey has been genuinely troubled by the thought that some people don’t believe in God.

I’m surprised and refreshed by this, because I have steered clear of apologetics de jure and culture-war slogans. Perhaps we have a budding philosophical theologian.

Christian Book Awards: ESV Study Bible is ‘Book of the Year’


Friday, March 20, 2009, Dallas – The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced last evening the winners of the 2009 Christian Book Awards during the 2009 Christian Book Expo (CBE) in Dallas. For the first time in the award’s 30-year history, a study Bible was named Christian Book of the Year: the ESV Study Bible (Crossway).

The ESV Study Bible, which sold more than 180,000 units within five months of release, also won its category for best Bible, the first time a Bible has won both its category and the overall Book of the Year award. The ESV Study Bible released to strong demand in October 2008, selling out of its 100,000-copy first printing as quickly as it reached bookstores shelves. ESV stands for the Bible translation, the English Standard Version.

Presented annually to the finest in Christian publishing since 1978, the Christian Book Awards honors titles in six categories – Bibles, Bible Reference & Study, Christian Life, Fiction, Children & Youth, and Inspiration & Gift. The six category winners for 2009 are:

Bibles
ESV Study Bible
Crossway Books & Bibles, 9781433502415

Bible Reference & Study
Dictionary of the Old Testament: Wisdom, Poetry & Writings, Tremper Longman III, Peter Enns, Eds.
InterVarsity Press, 9780830817832

Children & Youth
For Young Men Only, Jeff Feldhahn and Eric Rice with Shaunti Feldhahn
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 9781601420206

Christian Life
Spectacular Sins, John Piper
Crossway Books & Bibles, 9781433502750

Fiction
The Shape of Mercy, Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group, 9781400074563

Inspiration & Gift
Holiness Day by Day, Jerry Bridges
NavPress, 9781600063961

The 2009 Christian Book Awards were announced during an open-to-the-public awards dinner that kicked off the 2009 Christian Book Expo. The Christian Book Expo is the first Christian book fair of its kind and is happening March 20-22 at the Dallas Convention Center (www.ChristianBookExpo.com).

The Christian Book Awards, established in 1978 as the Gold Medallion Book Awards, recognize the absolute highest quality in Christian books. Based on excellence in content, literary quality, design, and significance of contribution, they are the oldest and among the most prestigious awards within the religious publishing industry.

The Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) is an international non-profit trade organization, comprised of nearly 250 member companies worldwide, representing a combined revenue of nearly $2 billion and was founded in 1974.

A brief guide to Washington snakes and idiots; or, the clearest explanation of the AIG uproar


Congress decided to give money to an entity without understanding how that entity works.

The people who approved bailout money for AIG did not take the time to learn that AIG had legally binding contracts with some of its executives.

That alone should be irrefutable proof of Congressional incompetence.

If only it was the first time.

Creativity in worship


I am still surprised when one of my daughters brings me a drawing and says, “I made this for you.” It’s a pleasant surprise to find out — despite my feeling that I don’t give them enough attention — they love me and were thinking about me.

My three daughters express themselves in different ways. I don’t necessarily expect one of them to do the same as the other.

Our desire to worship God is a gift of grace, but maybe our way to expressing that desire will be as different as our fingerprints.

If God is our heavenly Father, and we are adopted into his house, and he gives us a heart to worship him, then that leads me to think that he will smile warmly on the expressions of his children, no matter how well those expressions were done.

Kind of like when 3-year-old Sadie gives me a mess of colored crayon on paper. I love it.

Bishop Lawrence: ‘Making Biblical Anglicans…’


Bishop Mark Lawrence said the vision for the (Episcopal) Diocese of South Carolina should be, “Making Biblical Anglicans for a Global Age.”

Bishop Lawrence was speaking at the 218th Convention of the diocese at Christ Episcopal in Mount Pleasant.

He also said, for now, based on the diocesan constitution, the Diocese of S.C. should remain in The Episcopal Church. He also said there are still benefits to traveling along with the national church.

Several U.S. Episcopal churches have re-aligned themselves with Anglican provinces overseas because, in recent decades, many bishops and priests in The Episcopal Church U.S.A. have articulated radical departures from historical teachings on the Incarnation, the Trinity, and sorteriology.

People who choose to be Christians tend to find these historical teachings valuable, regardless of what their leadership might decide is more important.

However, journalists in most media outlets do not understand controversies related to theological and doctrinal formulations and therefore have decided to focus on Episcopalian debates regarding human sexuality. That way, the journalists don’t have to think too hard, and they can push the hot button.

I add this commentary as a current member of the Society of Professional Journalists, the National Book Critics Circle, and the Committee of Concerned Journalists.

Strategic charity: Pharmacist’s stimulus plan helped his neighbors


Pharmacist Danny Cottrell of Brewton, Alabama, gave his full-time employees $700 each and his part-time employees $300 each, all in $2 bills.

He requested that his employees give 15 percent to charity and spend the rest at local shops. Media reports say that $2 bills have been showing up all over Brewton.

Why not hatch a similar plan in our area?

Some local small-business owners are capable of doing similar things for their employees.

Truth in a dark tone


There are, as is known, insects that die in the moment of fertilization. So it is with all joy: life’s highest, most splendid moment of enjoyment is accompanied by death. -Soren Kierkegaard, Either / Or

That gives a whole new meaning to “The Grateful Dead.”

Circumstances color wounds as well as blame


How do people assign blame, and how do they characterize wounds?

Let’s say I was walking on a suburban sidewalk late one afternoon when a car swerved off the road and hit me. I was stuck with a limp for the rest of my life.

The driver’s circumstances would color how I told the story of my limp.

I could say, with a tone of hot disgust, I was HIT by a DRUNK DRIVER. Some people just ignore all common sense!

I could say, with a heavy heart, I was hit by a car when a middle-aged man had a heart attack and died behind the wheel. I feel horrible for his wife and children. I am lucky to be alive.

I could say, with sense of resignation, I was hit by a sweet, little old lady with an oversize hat who has yet to stop apologizing, and she keeps baking me chocolate chip cookies, like twice a week! Oh well, what can ya do?

I wish I had that type of clarity about the accidents of my life, but most of the time, I can hardly tell what the actual outcomes have been.

-CFB

Are you a Christian hipster?


From Brett McCracken, a friend of LiturgicalCredo.com:

Christian hipsters don’t like megachurches, altar calls, and door-to-door evangelism. They don’t really like John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart or youth pastors who talk too much about Braveheart. In general, they tend not to like Mel Gibson and have come to really dislike The Passion for being overly bloody and maybe a little sadistic. They don’t like people like Pat Robertson, who on The 700 Club famously said that America should “take Hugo Chavez out”; and they don’t particularly like The 700 Club either, except to make fun of it. They don’t like evangelical leaders who get too involved in politics, such as James Dobson or Jerry Falwell, who once said of terrorists that America should “blow them all away in the name of the Lord.” They don’t like TBN, PAX, or Joel Osteen. They do have a wry fondness for Benny Hinn, however.

Christian hipsters tend not to like contemporary Christian music (CCM), or Christian films (except ironically), or any non-book item sold at Family Christian Stores. They hate warehouse churches or churches with American flags on stage, or churches with any flag on stage, really. They prefer “Christ follower” to “Christian” and can’t stand the phrases “soul winning” or “non-denominational,” and they could do without weird and awkward evangelistic methods including (but not limited to): sock puppets, ventriloquism, mimes, sign language, “beach evangelism,” and modern dance. Surprisingly, they don’t really have that big of a problem with old school evangelists like Billy Graham and Billy Sunday and kind of love the really wild ones like Aimee Semple McPherson.

Read Brett’s full post here. If you scroll far enough into the comments, you’ll even see a few words by Yours Truly.

-CFB

Freedom and falsehood in worship


In a recent sermon, our associate rector, Iain Boyd, commented on differing approaches to worship.

If I may paraphrase him:

Some people are concerned with kneeling and crossing themselves and bowing at the right times, but they risk becoming righteous in their own eyes due to their attention to such details, he said.

Then he noted that those who are not concerned with the details of liturgical worship can have a superior attitude toward those who are!

This reminds me of the false dilemma between contemporary worship and liturgical worship. It’s a false dilemma because any type of expression can become rote.

I have the perfect example.

Several years ago, I made a return visit to a church I had attended for years. It was a charismatic/neo-Pentecostal church with a congregation that consistently raised arms, swayed, danced, and burst into speaking-in-tongues.

I noticed a young girl worshiping. She was probably in her early teens, and she had her eyes closed and she was singing passionately along with the congregation and she was waving her arms in the air. This is considered the only kind of authentic worship in many charismatic/neo-Pentecostal churches.

Worshiping like this is supposed to represent one’s love for God, and such free-flowing love is unencumbered by the starts and stops of more traditional forms of worship.

Except: When the girl I was watching started to sing the chorus of the song too soon, she jolted to a stop, dropped her arms, and looked with embarrassed eyes at the worship band up front.

She had not been flowing in unencumbered love, but instead, she had been performing a ritual, and she realized she had made a mistake in ordering the steps of the ritual. If she had not been performing a ritual, why the jolt? If you’re smooching, and you miss a lip, do you jerk back and look with embarrassment into your lover’s eyes, or do you just keep on slobbering?

Having grown up in that kind of church — with many years in the very church I was visiting — the scene with the teenage girl struck me as, most likely, more typical than not. I felt fairly certain I was reading the scene correctly.

It is true that traditional forms of worship, including liturgical worship, can become a habit — but any form of worship can become a habit, or a mode, or an exercise regimen.

Or maybe calisthenics.

The value I place on liturgical forms of worship has everything to do with my own journey out of depression, into an understanding of the historical continuity of my faith, and onto what was, for me, a new way to “taste and see that the Lord is good.” I realize, however, you might not find older liturgical forms valuable. Two essential things I think are present in liturgical worship that could be inserted into churches with contemporary approaches to worship, but are sadly absent from most of them, are (1) a proper handling of Holy Communion, and (2) a catechetical intention, reemphasizing the basics of the Trinitarian, Incarnational faith, during each service.

-CFB

Irenaeus and the Eucharist


From Gordon Lathrop’s book, Holy People: A Liturgical Ecclesiology:

In the late second century, Irenaeus of Lyons, perhaps the first, great, post-biblical theologian of the church, created a remarkable, brief summary of liturgical theology. He was arguing against those gnostics who belittled “the things around us” and regarded the flesh as evil, when he wrote: “But our judgment is consonant with the Eucharist, and, in turn, the Eucharist establishes our judgment.” For Irenaeus, the very bread and cup of the thanksgiving meal, which are the body and blood of the Lord and which nourish our own flesh and blood, proclaim the truth of the God who created the world and redeemed it in Jesus Christ.

Lathrop adds another interesting perspective on Eucharistic celebration:

…not just the Lord’s Supper isolated and considered as one illustration of the Christian message. Rather, Eucharist is the whole economy of word set next to meal, texts set next to preaching, thanksgiving set next to eating and drinking, which makes up the deepest ecumenical pattern for celebration. Eucharist is the every-Sunday assembly for doing this word and meal event set next to the recurring experience of the week.