Cooking Fires, Burning Bushes, and the Practice of Art and Faith

Cooking Fires, Burning Bushes, and the Practice of Art and Faith

July 09, 2015

And yet, when passion arrives, it can carry its own worth: the snap and flare of a consuming energy, a distraction that becomes a center, that fugue of close and irritable tension moments before fresh water springs forth.

Is there space in a practice of faith for passion? In faith, certainly; but in its practice?

Is there space in a practice of art for passion? In art, certainly; but in its practice?

Is there space for passion in that long, middle everyday that spreads over most of life, most of worship, most of writing like a worn, inherited, tartan wool blanket? The one with burned-out holes, from cooking fires, from burning bushes, from both?

Can passion be ever other than an interruption? A step away from the plain-walking that crisscrosses the calendar? Was Moses’s life following touched ever-after by his encounter with that burning bush? Did Isaiah carry heaven’s fire with him to the market? Into his companionless nights? If so, then why isn’t mine? If so, where is my sparking, clacking baggage?

I have been asking God to be present in my craft for more than two decades now. Is he here? Is she? Is it right, is it proper, to ask? And, who answers? Do you? Can I? In a posterity-free age, can we still expect time to tell? And if it does, how do I use that to plan my Tuesday night?

When church is hollow and art is not, when vows are cold and temptation is hot, how do we reconcile a life abundant? Is the finished book dead or only ready to be born? Is the uncompleted painting the sign of life being lived or abandoned? Is the sad, completed marriage a better satisfaction of love’s demands than the passionate and broken one?

Which are the gifts?

Which are the tests?

Does determining hatch the seed of judgement? Tend the root of wisdom? Waste our time?

If God is not here, where is she? Certainly not at home in the land of ease. Nor at the thin-aired peak of achievement. God is a poet, for certain—where even when the work arrives slim and intense a whole existence is bound up inside it. But how does she work? Is God a plodder? Biology suggests he’s not a sprinter. Is she impassioned? The universe is flush with incandescence.

Tell me I don’t have to know. Tell me I can dance without knowing the score. Then, tell me how.

How does one ever know if the pains along this path are warning, torture, or birth pangs? Do I get to answer? Do you?


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