Art is Hopeful

Arts and TheologyOne of the books I’m currently reading is Makoto Fujimura’s Refractions, a collection of essays reflecting on faith, art and culture. It works as a devotional book with its starting places and illustrations in art. I love it so far. In chapter 8, he writes this:

Art is an inherently hopeful act, an act that echoes the creativity of the Creator…[art] is done in hope; the creator reaches out in hope to call the world into that creation.”

Makoto Fujimura - Refractions

Makoto Fujimura – Refractions

The very fact that we imagine something that is not created yet, we reach out to it, to see it become manifest is an act of hope. We don’t know for sure if the thing in our brains will become the thing in reality, but we hope it will. When writing a song, I normally have a specific feel that I can’t quite put to words and I’m straining to work it out in reality- to see the intangible become tangible (at least in some way).

And this creating is not limited to art. We are all little creators, an attribute given by The Creator. With our lives we can create beauty and life (such as being a sacrificial husband or a loving sibling) or we can create chaos and death (such as being an abusive spouse or an arrogant Christian). We all create, sometimes for life, sometimes for death. We are a mix of artist and terrorist.

The Christian’s job is to be creating beauty in this world, seeking God’s will to be reflected here on earth as it is in heaven.

We have a mandate to become artists, using the wreckage of broken beauty in this world. We each have a different brush, a different voice, a different movement, but and we are all united in the hope we have to create. A hope for our own creations, and a hope in the One who made creation.

Truth and Creation (or art?)

Arts and TheologyTruth is not something we create, it is the thing we choose to embrace or disregard when creating.

I think this little quote could be handy to the modern/postmodern divide, a possible corrective for both camps.

When looking at a work of art (we’ll constrain this post to that arena), the modern side will typically be only concerned with the objective: What did the artist intend for the work? The postmodern will typically only be concerned with the subjective: How does the work affect me?

Both sides don’t often like to embrace the question from the other. The problem the moderns can run into is not realizing that art is not made inside a vacuum, but within a community. And this community not only includes the artist himself, but the viewer, the surrounding environment, etc. The postmoderns are all about embracing this idea of community, especially on the side of the subjective personal experience coming to the art, but they often do not include the original intention behind the work in that community of experience. Because of this, moderns say the work has one meaning for everyone and postmoderns would say the work has one meaning for each individual. The two both have great thoughts to offer each other.

The modern can teach the postmodern of the importance of original intention. The artist has labored over the work for a reason, and even if the artist doesn’t know what that reason specifically is, there are thoughts and emotions poured into it. We do not exist in a vacuum and therefore our art does not.

The postmodern can teach the modern of the importance of personal experience. Art does affect us and the way we interpret the art does add to its meaning. A piece of art stands by itself, one doesn’t have the artist standing by its side constantly explaining it…and if that was to happen that would surely be a boring experience. Part of the joy of art is the discovery process. It moves us and it should.

So what’s more important? The objective or the subjective? Yes. We don’t need to pick sides and entrench ourselves, there can be (should be) a third way. Truth is not something we create, it is the thing we choose to embrace or disregard when creating. The modern errs on the side of equating art with truth itself. The postmodern errs on the side of not recognizing the embrace or disregard of any kind of truth.

I think both sides have much to bring to the table, and aspects of both perspectives are needed for us to get this whole thing. But when we grip so tightly to our own views at the expense of seeing others’ perspectives, we lose out. That’s been every philosopher’s flaw since the beginning of time. They stick to their ideas and when confronted with something that doesn’t work, they try to squeeze the bits through the experience of the truth. And it comes out like the Play-Doh in their spaghetti maker: it’s fun to play with, but not much good for anything else.

Beauty Breaking in to Normal Life

Arts and TheologyThe other day, Christina and I were able to visit the Morse Museum in Winter Park, the “world’s most comprehensive collection of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany,” the artist whose main medium was working with glass. I confess I originally was not very excited about Tiffany’s work. Whenever I saw something Tiffany-related, I just put it in a 40s-60s-kind-a-vibe category of mere ornamentation. But then I interacted more with the artist and his purpose, and I was reallTiffanyy moved.

Tiffany’s work was designed for those who owned his art to interact with beauty on an everyday basis. Be it doors to a garden, or a window to a yard, his purpose was a necessary interface between the beautiful and the mundane.

TiffanyAfter thinking about this while perusing the space, I felt a kind of sadness. His work was now housed in a museum, where someone has to go out of their normal life to view. Tiffany’s aim was not in line with this. I know the necessity of preserving the art, but if some of the purpose is lost, can the art really be preserved? Or maybe a work of art’s meaning is supposed to change with time and place?

TiffanyAll the more it pointed to the fact that art is not made in a vacuum. It must interact with its surrounding, or maybe its community? And we are a part of that community. Especially with Tiffany, our working with the art is part of the meaning of the piece itself. Sometimes these lines get fuzzy.

TiffanyTiffany’s work really illuminates the idea of the transcendent breaking in to normal mundane life, pointing to the fact that the transcendent is all around us. And not in some pantheistic god is everything kind of deal. But the God is always speaking to us, His word is a constant echo in the ears of humanity. And bringing in that transcendent nature that comes with beauty, when put in front of your nose everyday, as a Tiffany piece should have been- be it lamp or window or something else, would probably change your view of the world and how we ought to live. Now beauty becomes something needed, not just a rich person’s commodity. Art becomes something to work hard for- in the sense of buying and placing in your own home’s space, or the sense of working hard to “get it.” There is more out there, and Louis Comfort Tiffany’s vision is an excellent reference.

A Capella and the Trinity

Arts and TheologyThis past Sunday at Orlando Grace (which is in process of a new website, by the way), I did what was most uncomfortable for me. I did an a capella service (or acapella?). No instruments. Not even other voices. Just me and a hymnal. At first it was scary, but I think it turned out well.

My reasoning for this is not just to do something different (although that is good, too), but was to demonstrate certain aspects of the Trinity and to a lesser degree, affirm the use and importance of music itself in a church service. I didn’t even get to the fact that our bodies are instruments, but maybe that’s for some other week.

So I am standing there in front of the congregation, my guitar now ripped from my iron fists of fear, with nothing but a music stand and microphone. Technically, I was afraid of not starting on the right note, which would make the rest of the song too high or too low. I may have erred on the low side, but it didn’t seem to be much of a distraction. Theologically what I was trying to get across was this (and the confession we picked affirmed this as well): Our God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. One God, three Persons.

There is a unity that comes with diversity. And this is a unity in the great sense of the word, not the political correct flavored version. The Trinity’s unity, in one sense comes from the very fact that they are different. And this is the basis of our relationships with one another. We can be unified in our diversity. Christianity is not something that, once it is a part of you, you must become like everyone else. It is not in its nature to be dehumanizing. In fact, it is the opposite! Christianity affirms our differences, our different personalities, giftings, etc., and says we are united because of the uniqueness. We can be one and many at the same time.

And this is where the a capella idea came in. The total sound of the congregation when singing something like Holy, Holy, Holy can be classified as one and many at the same time and space. There is one overall sound and there are many voices. And the overall sound would be something different if one person was not there. I would go so far to say it requires diversity to be unified. That would be the difference between being the same and being unified. We need each other in order to make one sound. This is made all the more clear when people sing different parts and harmonize with each other. This is also something we don’t get to hear when other instruments are in the sound field.

Our church, like may others, projects the words to the songs on a screen so we don’t have to print out song sheets each week. The projector is great, but I think something is lost in that. When all we see is text (like on a screen) we forget the music itself means something. At least a hymnal has notes associated with the words so we can see that a corporate worship song is music plus text. A corporate worship song is not just text. And when we forget about the music, I think we lose out on what the music itself has to teach us, just one of those lessons being unity and diversity.

Stopping Time?

Arts and TheologySometimes our lives gets so busy and action-oriented that I don’t stop for a second to look at everything (replace “our lives” with “my life” and “everything” with “the mess”). Shinichi Maruyama, in his Kusho series, takes something that would normally be seen as action, and attempts to express a frozen moment. There are many artists who do this kind of abstraction, you could even make the case that all art abstracts time in some way. But there’s something more that got me interested in Maruyama’s work, though I’m still not sure what it is. Maybe it’s because he also does Nihonga and Makoto Fujimura, who I love, also does Nihonga and deals with time (though in a different fashion), or maybe it’s the high contrast of the photographs themselves (the stopped action is something so obviously completely other than its surroundings). Or maybe I just like looking at them, especially the Kusho movie, I think it really gets at his “writing in the sky” idea.

Shinichi Maruyamas Kusho series

Shinichi Maruyama’s Kusho series

One thing that I do know I like is his presentation of the preciousness of the moment. Sometimes the moments are serene, sometimes violent, each seem to be unique and each give a feel of significance. Spending the time he does gives the moment value, importance, something of worth.
This speaks to me, knowing that I don’t give time its due significance, which leads to a little obsession with the subject (but I’m a musician, so I should be obsessed a little with time).

It also brings up the idea that if God is infinite and outside of the constraint of time, then He can spend an infinite amount of time on one moment. He would be able to see our moments better than we can. These abstractions by Maruyama would not be abstraction for God. This is really comforting for me, knowing that not only is God my future hope, but He is here. With me. Right now. I overlook/disdain/take for granted this idea very often and my life is less for that. I hope that Shinichi Maruyama’s work will not just be something amusing for me to look at, but will show me another aspect of God’s Person.

Woodworking and the Fall of Man

unfinished heelblocks

unfinished heelblocks

Arts and TheologyOver the Christmas break I was able to finish making an ashtray I started a while ago. It actually started as a guitar when I was a junior at UF. Myself and Steve, my roommate, were planning on making a guitar. I had access to the College of Art’s wood shop, so we had all sorts of cool tools at our disposal. Then we found out that making a guitar is really hard. And it takes a lot of time. So that ended up on the back burner for a bunch of years, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away the fine pieces of wood that we bought in anticipation of our guitar masterpiece. One of those pieces that I’ve been carting around was a mahogany heel block, like the one in the pic. It’s basically a block of wood that you would finish and attach where the neck joins the body. It was a beautiful piece of wood, so I had to use it to do something. Not being a master wood worker and only having access to a Dremel tool, I chose something simple and functional: a cigar ashtray.

the finished ashtray

the finished ashtray

I routed out the tray (which took forever with a Dremel) and made a few spots to hold some stogies, sanded the beast and sealed it. The finished product doesn’t look too bad.

There was one thing that kept hitting me, though. I was always having to struggle with the material to get it to do what I wanted to do. This is a similar idea found in a book edited by Jeremy Begbie, Beholding the Glory: Incarnation through the Arts. The chapter on the use of sculpture is written by Lynn Aldrich, a sculptor living in L.A. (here’s some of her work). My material was just a block of wood and it was using every ounce of inertia to stay that block of wood. I feel like the process really spoke to me about the universal idea of struggle or frustration. I had an end in sight and it took hours of struggle to see that end. This is not what life was meant to be. Life was never meant to be a series of struggles where in the end everyone dies anyway. But I have become so accustomed to struggle and frustration that I don’t often give it a second thought.

…cursed is the ground because of you;

Begbie's book is a great introduction, looking at many areas of art and the incarnation.

Begbie’s book is a great introduction, looking at many areas of art and the incarnation.

in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;

thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;

and you shall eat the plants of the field.

By the sweat of your face

you shall eat bread,

till you return to the ground,

for out of it you were taken;

for you are dust,

and to dust you shall return.”

(Gen 3:17b-19)

Maybe we should all get more frustrated or annoyed at the curse of the fall. We probably just accept it more often than not, and that might be a simple coping mechanism so that we don’t all end up in despair. But despair can be a good thing at times. It points to the great divide of where we are and where we want to be. A despairing person is definitely not alright with the way things are.

But we aren’t just left with despair, we do have a hope, a light that shines ever so faintly at the end of our dark tunnel. This is faith- believing that light does exist beyond our current circumstance.

Can a person be in despair and hope at the same time? I guess that’s kind of the Christian walk, figuring out how to live in both of those worlds.

from sacred to secular

Arts and TheologySo recently I’ve been reading up on early Christian painting and in light of my last post, thought there was some overlap.

Fish and Eucharist Loaves

Fish and Eucharist Loaves

The art made while Christianity was a persecuted religion had some very different aspects from that of later works that were made in times of peace. The subjects and the way the subjects are represented are different in times of persecution and acceptance.

The earliest paintings of the Christian church that we have are more symbolic in nature, focusing on symbolic representations of the Jonah story or the elements of the Eucharist.

The Good Shepherd

The Good Shepherd

After Christians were more acceptable in the public sphere, some had to combine their heavenly desires with earthly demands. Also, when persecution waned, the style even became a bit more graceful or tranquil. The painting of the Good Shepherd shows an attention to detail, but produced with seemingly less effort than other paintings of the same subject.

There also creeped in more traditionally non-sacred subjects, like landscape scenes and wine making, but still with the goal of the work to be evangelical in nature, telling the story of the gospel.

Even though early Christian art was always heavily influenced by their contemporary society, that influence shows itself even more as Christianity was less and less persecuted. One writer claims that “Christian painting might well be described as Roman painting baptized.”

Wine Harvesting Mosaic

Wine Harvesting Mosaic

There are some really interesting things going on in my head, specifically how to interact with the world. How does this teach about being in the world and not of it? How does this teach of serious cultural engagement? How does this teach on how much of the culture we should appropriate for our lives?

Even though the early church was just as sinful as us, I think we can find a few answers. It seems that, from the beginning, Christians were making or doing some kind of art- and not attempting to completely remove themselves from their context. There was some kind of give and take going on. Even though they weren’t perfect, there definitely seems to be a healthy wrestling going on, just from a quick overview.  This is a line I believe all Christians will have to ride, accepting certain parts of culture, rejecting others.  Not secluding ourselves, not giving in completely.  This is a hard thing to do, it requires some critical thinking.  It is very easy to be an end on a spectrum (The world is always bad or the world is always good) than it is to come up with a deep interaction between what’s worth keeping and what’s worth chucking.

So when we are searching for how to be in the world and not of the world, we should recognize that even the earliest Christians have been dealing with this problem. But the important thing is that they were dealing with this problem.  They wrestled, and we should, too.

When We Play Wrong Notes

Arts and TheologyAs mentioned in the previous post:

But what about when we play bad notes? What happens when a jazz player plays a wrong note, something that goes outside of the established rules? What happens when he or she intentionally goes outside the rules? This will be the subject of the next post.

We’re looking at the inevitable situation: wrong notes will be played.  So how does this work in the analogy of freedom in the Christian life?

I’ve made another favtape for this post.  It’s called Jazz: Wrong Notes, and you can use it as the soundtrack for this post.

First, I think we need to make a distinction.  There are two types of wrong notes: intentional and unintentional. Intentional wrong notes are played on purpose, with the wrong note in mind, they are not mistakes.  Unintentional wrong notes are mistakes, the player did not expect to hit a note that sounded off or bad, but did any way.  Because of these differences, we could probably classify the notes as “wrong” and wrong.  “Wrong” notes are intended, wrong notes are not.  “Wrong” notes have a premeditated purpose, wrong notes are present mistakes. So with that…

“Wrong” Notes
“Wrong” notes are meant to happen. These occur when the soloist decides to add tension, or dissonance, to their melody. Solists often color outside the lines to make the solo interesting.  When going outside the correct boundaries, the soloist isn’t saying, “These wrong notes are really not wrong at all” but the “wrong” notes point all the more to which notes are right. “Wrong” notes are noticed as such and, if anything, give us a tension that makes us really want the resolution.  It plays on our expectations on where home is.  When we think the soloist is going home, playing a note that beautifully resolves, and the soloist goes somewhere else than a comfortable home, we feel it.  We want to go home and anticipate where home might be.  The tension that we were unexepectedly presented with doesn’t become the new home, but leads us there.

Too much dissonance can end up with a fatigued ear on the part of a listener and with a lack of direction in the music.  This is often intended by free jazz, as evidenced in Ornette Coleman’s “Science Fiction” on the favtape. Sometimes we need some right notes in there to give us direction, to have tension and resolution.  Because without the resolution (or an implied resolution), tension ceases to exist as tension, it all becomes homogenous.

But dissonance can be a great learning tool.  Saying what Christianity is not can be very helpful in determining what Christianity is.

Wrong Notes
Wrong notes are mistakes we make. Jazz is fundamentally a live music.  Being a live music, wrong notes are made all the time.  The soloist plays something that was supposed to sound smooth, but now sounds erratic or disjointed: just plain wrong. If the soloist chooses to keep going, these mistakes don’t have to end the music.  The soloist still has the opportunity to make something beautiful out of the melody, though a wrong note has been played. Just as in our lives as believers, dissonance, our mistakes, do not end the song.  The musicians don’t pick up and leave, but keep going. God doesn’t drop us the second we make a mistake- He might hit the next piano chord a little harder so that we can hear where the right notes are, or He might play the drums a bit more pronounced so that we can hear the tempo better, but He doesn’t stop playing.  He keeps playing, continually inviting us to create something beautiful with Him, and our mistakes end up being part of the song.

And even the best players make mistakes.  Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie- these are jazz giants.  And they made obvious mistakes on their recordings.  But just because they make an occassional mistake does not discredit the melodies that came from their continual playing.

So “wrong” notes and wrong notes are both going to occur.  But the song keeps going, and we keep playing.  And the more mature we get, the less wrong notes we use, and we will be able to use “wrong” notes in the right places, pointing ourselves and others to our home.

Creeds and Freedom or The Jazz Rhythm Section and the Soloist

Arts and TheologyIn explaining some of the church’s confessions and creeds to my Worship Leading class, I used an example I often go to: jazz.  Jazz (and I have in mind more straigh-ahead jazz from the 40s to the 70s, like Miles or Coltrane or Brubeck or Parker) has much to offer our lives beyond its music (which is good by itself, too).

I’ve kind of breached the subject on freedom already but there’s so much more to cover in this intersection of music and theology.  And our focus right now is the Creeds of the Church, in general.  More often than not, the major creeds define things negatively- what the subject in question is not. A great example of this is the person of Christ as defined by the four councils of Chalcedon. The four councils mark out what the person of Christ is not- Christ is not only God, Christ is not only man, Christ is not more or less than one person, Christ has nothing more or less than two natures.  This creates four lines, demarcating the lines of where we cannot go outside of.  But these four lines form an area like a square, inside of which we can have freedom to move around and see exactly who the person of Christ is- the positive definition. This is the task left to us.

Jesus and John Coltrane

Jesus and John Coltrane have more in common than what we

So where does jazz come in? Jazz comes in as a great metaphor for something we do every day in this arena of positively spelling out our theology.  Let’s look at a typical jazz rhythm section, there’s the drummer, the bassist and the piano player.  The drummer is laying down the tempo, the rhythm, the groove.  The bassist is establishing the tonal foundation, the lowest tones we’ll hear, giving a base for the chords.  The piano player lays out the rest of the chord.  Each are filling in the emptiness the others have and each are contributing to the overall mood of the song.  Now here comes the saxophone soloist.  He hears all these things as boundaries or limits to where this particular song will go.  There’s a tempo, a key, a mood, a length of verse and chorus. The soloist hears these and uses these to create the melody, the solo.  The notes are all within the boundaries, but when put together by this soloist, the melody (and the complete overall sound) is something completely unique.  When it’s the other soloist’s chance to play, she hears the drummer, bassist and pianist and plays another melody line, all within the established boundaries, and also completely unique.  Each soloist is unique, depending on instrument, timbre, influences, what one wants to say versus another, and therefore, each overall sound will be unique.  But none of these have to break the established rules to be unique. This seems to be opposite our culture’s view of what is unique or authentic and what is not.

So this jazz soloist is you and it is me.  When we go about our lives, doing our daily things, we are positively asserting what our theology is. When we choose to sacrifice ourselves and love someone, it is something unique to our situation and easily within the boundaries of what love or humility is. Our creeds and most of theology proper give us the right boundaries for us to positively live out what life is truly meant to be. All of our individual songs will end up sounding different, even if we have the same rhythm section playing the same thing.  They are different and they are good (if keeping within the boundaries).

Hopefully we have the correct boundaries. And if we do, hopefully we will stay within them. The funny thing is, we know when we get outside the boundaries.  We might try and rationalize it, but there’s a dissonance that rings inside of us. But what about when we play bad notes? What happens when a jazz player plays a wrong note, something that goes outside of the established rules? What happens when he or she intentionally goes outside the rules? This will be the subject of the next post.

Living in our faith: bluegrass of Bill Monroe

Arts and TheologyMore on this subject of living in our faith, I think bluegrass music in general and Bill Monroe in particular can further illustrate these ideas.  And since this is a site about music and theology, it makes the cut.  Bluegrass music has a great coincidental, lived-in aspect of faith in its music.  The genre itself has spiritual roots.  It also can affirm honest real world situations and emotions (which is why I think bluegrass and hardcore music are similar on many levels).

One often finds songs on bluegrass albums about death or murder side by side with old hymns and sometimes escapist Christianity.  Are the Christianized songs just vestiges of an assumed culture of shallow Christianity? Quite possibly.  But it is also quite possible that bluegrass has a lot to teach us in our supposed modern world of sophistication.

Bill Monroe (often labeled the father of bluegrass) is the classic example of song style and content in the genre of bluegrass.  Themes of love, longing, beauty and death are typical fare.  There are 4 songs in particular that I’d like to look at, and I’ve created a favtape for everyone to follow along.  Put in on in another tab and let it be the soundtrack to the post.

Cryin’ Holy Unto My Lord
This would be your typical Christian song, dealing exclusively with obvious Christian themes.  We are not strangers to God if we are his, and we long to be a part of His holiness. Here are the lyrics:

Crying holy unto my lord
Crying holy unto my lord
Oh, if i could i surely would
Stand on the rock where Moses stood

Sinners run and hide your face
Sinners run and hide your face
Go and run into the rocks and hide your face
‘Cause i ain’t no stranger now

Lord, I ain’t no stranger now
Lord, I ain’t no stranger now
I’ve been introduced to the Father and the Son
And, I ain’t no stranger now

This might be a good place to say that bluegrass may not be the best genre to gain specific normative theological data (no mention of the Spirit here, maybe he was constrained by syllables), and music in general may not be good for this, but the light shed on us and our situation as humans is significant.

Goodbye Old Pal
Moving to our next selection, Goodbye Old Pal is about a man who had to bury his best friend, his horse.  Now I don’t know which is more sad: burying your horse that you love, or not having any human friends to compare to said animal.  Either way, one can feel the pain of losing someone you love, feeling alone and abandoned, moving on in inner turmoil while the one you loved seems to be at peace. It is your basic bluegrass blues, lamenting the despair of life. It’s Kierkegaard in under 3 minutes. Here are the lyrics:

Along about round-up time In Texas way out West I
lost a friend and a pal, boys I laid him down to
rest I weeped and moaned over his grave and to me
boys it was sad ‘Cause I knew down beneath that
mound lay the best pal I ever had

My best pal was my old paint horse and now he’s
gone to rest I laid him down beneath that mound in
Texas away out West Where the cactus blooms over
his grave and the coyotes cry I know he sleeps in
perfect peace beneath the Texas sky

Dear old pal it breaks my heart to leave you here
alone Now I’ll go and ride the range on the Texas
roan But my love for you old pal it shall linger
on I will always think of you although you’re dead
and gone

I Saw the Light
But Monroe doesn’t just sing about pain, he also sings about release and hope.  We are in a dark world, yes- we feel that.  We are poor and bound for pain. But there is something bright in this darkness. Here’s the lyrics:

I wandered so aimless my heart filled with sin
I wouldn’t let my dear Savior in
Then Jesus came like a stranger in the night
Praise the Lord I saw the light

I saw the light I saw the light
No more darkness no more night
Now I’m so happy no sorrow in sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light

Just like a blind man I wandered alone
Worries and fears I claimed for my own
Then like the blind man that God gave back his sight
Praise the Lord I saw the light

Blue Moon of Kentucky and My Old Kentucky and You
This last example is the most nuanced and combines a few of the previous aspects of our lives.  It’s also a prominent characteristic of bluegrass music: the longing for home.  Home is seen as beautiful, a country of hills and grass and untainted nature.  There is a freedom in that place.  However, most songs that have this theme place the singer outside of this home, longing for this freedom and life.

The love of land reminds us that we are part of this earth, not separate from it, and though bluegrass has its fair share of escapism, (I’m looking at you, I’ll Fly Away), this slant firmly plants us in life.  There is also a simplicity in this love- it is not the American dream by any definition, it is unrealized and bitter-sweet.  Sweet because of its hope, bitter because of not being there.  This is the longing that we all have as believers, realizing we are not there and feeling pain and anguish, looking forward to the beauty that will come to all those in Him. Both of these examples speak of a place and a person that calls them home.  Here are the lyrics for Blue Moon of Kentucky:

Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that’s gone and proved untrue
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that’s gone and left me blue
It was on a moonlight night the stars were shining bright
When they whispered from on high your love has said good-bye
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that’s gone and said good-bye

Here are the lyrics for My Old Kentucky and You:

There’s a bluegrass girl a-waiting
In the state of Old K.Y.
Way up in the mountains
Where the tall pines touch the sky
Her hair is like the autumn
And her eyes are heavenly blue
I’m coming back to see you
My Old Kentucky and you

She’s the jewel of all the bluegrass girls
A diamond in the rough
Sparkles with love that’s just for me
I can’t see her enough
Her hair is like the autumn
And her eyes are heavenly blue
I’m coming back to see you
My Old Kentucky and you

In the hills of old Kentucky
Where the bluegrass grows so sweet
A scene from heaven here on earth
Where an angel waits for me
Her lips are sweet as honey
And moist as the morning dew
I’m coming back to see you
My Old Kentucky and You

She’s the jewel of all the bluegrass girls
A diamond in the rough
Sparkles with love that’s just for me
I can’t see her enough
Her lips are sweet as honey
And moist as the morning dew
I’m coming back to see you
My Old Kentucky and you

She’s the jewel of all the bluegrass girls
A diamond in the rough
Sparkles with love that’s just for me
I can’t see her enough
Her hair is like the autumn
And her eyes are heavenly blue
I’m coming back to see you
My Old Kentucky and you
My Old Kentucky and you
My Old Kentucky and you

I included Roanoke as a bonus in the favtape just because it’s so classic.

The reason why I think all of this links to my moleskine metaphor is that Monroe’s albums move freely from subject to subject: singing about death one song, then 3 minutes later, singing about the light of men.  And bluegrass as a genre gives musicians the freedom to move like that.  There does not need to be a 5 minute preface on what the song is about or an apology for singing about God, it’s part of the genre.  Likewise, our faith should be part of us, moving freely from our humanity in its depraved state to the glory of God with flexibility.

We are very good at creating categories where God should be and where he shouldn’t and bluegrass just doesn’t come with that foundational mode of operating. Sure, it’s out of tune sometimes, and wrong notes happen but the bluegrass musician is singing out of the soul, something we could do more of. Psalm 69:3 comes to mind:

I am weary with my crying out;
my throat is parched.
My eyes grow dim
with waiting for my God.