The Spirit’s role

Pentecost Sunday

Arcabas (French, 1926-), Pentecost, 2005.

We trust in God the Holy Spirit,
everywhere the giver and renewer of life.
The Spirit justifies us by grace through faith,
sets us free to accept ourselves and to love God and neighbor,
and binds us together with all believers
in the one body of Christ, the Church.
The same Spirit
who inspired the prophets and apostles
rules our faith and life in Christ through Scripture,
engages us through the Word proclaimed,
claims us in the waters of baptism,
feeds us with the bread of life and the cup of salvation,
and calls women and men to all ministries of the church.
In a broken and fearful world
the Spirit gives us courage
to pray without ceasing,
to witness among all peoples to Christ as Lord and Savior,
to unmask idolatries in Church and culture,
to hear the voices of peoples long silenced,
and to work with others for justice, freedom, and peace.
In gratitude to God, empowered by the Spirit,
we strive to serve Christ in our daily tasks
and to live holy and joyful lives,
even as we watch for God’s new heaven and new earth,
praying, “Come, Lord Jesus!”

—from “A Brief Statement of Faith,” Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), 1983

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Tee Time: You may not like me . . .

Jesus thinks I'm to die for. . . but Jesus thinks I’m to die for.

Found here.

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The Open Arms of Jesus

Jesus standing there with open arms. Ready to receive us, forgive us, embrace us. A big smile. A bright glow.

This is perhaps one of the most familiar images of Jesus in popular culture, as evidenced by the slew of digital prints out there. Here’s what a Google image search turns up.

Open arms of Jesus

. . . Eek.

Open-armed Jesus has become such a cliché that it’s hard for the artist to engage that form in a rich, meaningful, sincere way. Though it’s one that obviously resonates with many Christians, it’s just so sugary-sweet, so sentimental, that not much new can be done with it.

Some artists, though, have succeeded in innovating on this form, inviting more robust readings. One of them is Shin Young-Hun.  Continue reading

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Tee Time: My world revolves around the Son

My world revolves around the SonFound at

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Roundup: MOBIA closing, spirituality in African & African American art, Christian bookstores, a mom’s legacy, “River of Life”

The Museum of Biblical Art in New York City will be closing permanently on June 14 due to lack of funding. I really am saddened by this news. The (secular) art news blog Hyperallergic covered this story, writing that MOBIA “showcased smartly curated exhibitions that looked academically and artistically at the biblical influence on art. . . . Its examinations of religion’s impact on art history and the openness of its programming will be missed.”

This year the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art is running an exhibition called “Conversations: African and African American Works in Dialogue.” One of the themes the exhibition explores is spirituality. See works by Henry Ossawa Tanner, Aaron Douglas, William Henry Johnson, and more.

“10 Things We Miss about ’90s Christian Bookstores”: Gotta say, I was a regular patron of my local Christian bookstore in the nineties. They carried some of the tackiest stock around.

“One Thing I Want My Kids to Remember about Me” by Melissa Edgington: Hear what this mommy blogger has to say.

George Black of Elm City Vineyard Church in New Haven, Connecticut, sings the children’s church classic “River of Life”:

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A tribute to Joan Hartz, my grandma

My grandma is a truly amazing woman of faith, whose life bears witness to the grace and goodness of God. She gave herself to Christ at a young age and has been serving him ever since in central New Jersey—in her home, her church, and her community. She has been one of the most influential people in my spiritual formation, a constant encouragement and a shining example of Christlikeness. Selfless and joyful in all that she does, she lives in constant praise of the One who has saved her.

Joan Hartz at the piano

Not only does Mom-Mom model Christ to me, she is also the most talented pianist I know. As with her other gifts, she uses it to serve God; she’s been playing the piano and/or organ for her church for the last sixty-five years, and she gives regular concerts at a local nursing home. Though I too play the piano, I know I will never attain the level of expertise that she’s been able to—but it’s fun to try to work toward! We sometimes tinker around together in duet. But I can really only play the notation in front of me; Mom-Mom, on the other hand, has this amazing ability to embellish a basic melody with all kinds of creative flourish. Her arrangements have an arc that builds to a climax and then winds back down again.

Some of my fondest memories of visiting Mom-Mom and Pop-Pop’s have to do with sitting in the living room with the rest of my family, listening to her make those keys sing. We cuddle up in blankets with dessert in hand and shout out hymn requests, which she strings together into seamless medleys full of spiritual vitality.

When Mom-Mom visits my parents in North Carolina, she’s usually invited to play special music at their church. During one such practice session last November, my mom arranged to have her recorded. So with no advance notice, nothing special prepared, Mom-Mom sat down and created these impromptu arrangements, which have all the character of her living room performances.

So I am pleased to publish online for the first time nine of Joan Hartz’s original piano arrangements. I’ve called the set Hymn Improvisations. Listen below, or jump over to SoundCloud, where the playlist is hosted.

Unfortunately, some modification of the original recording was necessary. In seeking permission for the few songs still under copyright, I found that the two controlled by Music Services, Inc.—“My Hope Is in the Lord” and “’Til the Storm Passes By”—are too expensive to license for online streaming, so I’ve omitted those from the playlist. Other than that, I’ve preserved intact the order and content of that November recording session.

I’d like to draw your attention to track 5, which features Mom-Mom’s favorite hymn, “My Jesus, I Love Thee.” The first verse goes,

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine;
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign.
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ’tis now.

Track 4, “In the Garden,” also holds special significance for Mom-Mom, it being her mother Florence Rothamel’s favorite hymn.

I hope you enjoy my grandma’s online debut!

A special thanks to Virginia Wieringa, who graciously allowed me to use one of her collages for the album cover art. Inspired by Psalm 5, the image expresses so well my grandma’s exuberant spirit, which I think you will agree comes across in her music.

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Tee Time: When Jesus makes tea . . .

Tea Jesus

. . . Hebrews.

Found at

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