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Posts from — April 2011

Cafe Hopping (4/29)

afternoon coffee

I’ve had a few strange and busy days so it’s been quiet around here lately, but regular posting will resume shortly. In the meantime, here’s some of what’s caught my eye this week:

  • A Growing Community: The Seattle Times ran a lengthy piece on the growing community of Christian artists in the northwest. I enjoyed seeing a few of my friends featured — and my discussion group got a shout out! (More thoughts on this piece to come.)
  • Whimsical Imagination: Transpositions is holding “Imagination Symposium” over at their blog this past week. I found the post on whimsical imagination particularly thought-provoking.
  • How to move a 100 year old church:
  • Artfully animated GIFs: I thought it was impossible, but these three prove otherwise.
  • Madonna’s going classical: I’m a little skeptical, though it sounds like her orchestrator likes the harp.
  • Today: “One photo a day” projects are becoming more and more common. But this one by Jonathan Harris, which he started on his 30th birthday, is quite exceptional and beautiful:


April 29, 2011   No Comments

He stands in victory

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

-from In Christ Alone


April 24, 2011   1 Comment

Art for a Saturday World

Mercy Seat by Makoto Fujimura

From Brett McCracken:

“Ours is the long day’s journey of the Saturday,” writes literary critic George Steiner in Real Presences. “Between suffering, aloneness, unutterable waste on the one hand and the dream of liberation, of rebirth on the other.” But it is precisely in this lasting Saturday—this divine discontent, this limbo—that art finds a reason to exist.

I’ve seen a lot of “Friday” art in my life. You know, the really dark and depressing stuff that hipsters cling to and art museums solicit. This is Aronofsky’s Requiem For a Dream, Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, Pedro the Lion’s Control, Holbein’s The Body of the Dead Christ in the Tomb. . . To be sure, these are beautiful things, and in their darkness and discontent they carry a throbbing pulse of life and even grace. But it is still very stark, sin-centric and Fall-focused. Eden, heaven, Sunday, redemption … all are almost unthinkable. Against the bleakness of Friday, Steiner notes, “even the greatest art and poetry are almost helpless.”

But then I’ve also seen my fair share of “Sunday” art. These are the “all is well, the Garden is redeemed” dreamscapes of hope, love and happiness. This is Thomas Kinkade, Celine Dion, 90% of all Disney movies and 80% of all Christian music (these stats are not scientific). There is beauty here as well, but so much of it is disingenuous gloss and happy-face faux. This art looks only forward and jumps the gun with the whole “unresolved tension in our fallen world” idea. In such a utopian state, argues Steiner, the arts “no longer have logic or necessity.”

But in this long day’s journey that we all tread—this “Saturday” existence—art is the fuel that keeps us going. We are stuck here in time, looking forward and backward for Eden. What we were created to be is lost, though still felt in moments of memory lapse and epiphany. This is art.

Read the entire article, Easter Saturday.

(Video: Jeremy Cowart. Thx, Jonathan.)

(Image: Mercy Seat / Makoto Fujimura)

April 23, 2011   1 Comment

Downloads for Gethsemane and Prayer

Thanks so much to everyone for the encouraging responses to the Gethsemane and Prayer recordings. You can now download both tracks for free off SoundCloud.

Videos on YouTube are also available:

April 22, 2011   1 Comment

For Good Friday

As we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice for us this Good Friday, here is an arrangement my brother Tim and I did of Ernest Bloch’s Prayer, for cello and harp.

Prayer by rushyama

Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his stripes we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4-5

(Image: By What Blessedness Do I Weep? / Jen Grabarczyk)

April 22, 2011   No Comments

Picturing Holy Week

Mount of Olives

This week I’ve been chronologically reading through the Holy Week events, with help from a few online tools:

About a year and half ago, I had the amazing opportunity of walking the streets of Jerusalem myself. The experience definitely reshaped my mental image of biblical landmarks. Here are a few shots from places that correspond to Thursday’s Holy Week events (the last supper and the prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane):

What the upper room would have looked like from the ground.

Garden of Gethsemane

In the Garden of Gethsemane, which is mostly a small collection of olive trees. It's also at the base of the Mount of Olives.

The whole side of the Mount of Olives is covered with tombs. Over 150,000 people are buried there.

A lookout on the way up the Mount of Olives.

The Mount of Olives is a bit of a climb, but it really could be called a hill. It took about 45 minutes to make it up.

At the top!

The view of Jerusalem from the top of the Mount of Olives.

I also recommend the site Rise O Buried Lord for music that corresponds to Holy Week events.

(Top image: a view of the Mount of Olives from below.)

April 21, 2011   3 Comments


rembrandt arrest of christ

A couple months back I was thrilled to see that Keith Getty and Stuart Townend had collaborated to write Gethsemane, a new hymn with a Good Friday theme. Keith later released a solo piano version that I thought would adapt well to the harp. With just a few minor changes, it worked out well. Here’s a rough recording of my version, which I’m planning to use for our church’s Good Friday service:

Gethsemane by rushyama

To see the King of heaven fall
In anguish to His knees,
The Light and Hope of all the world
Now overwhelmed with grief.
What nameless horrors must He see,
To cry out in the garden:
Oh, take this cup away from me
Yet not my will but Yours,
Yet not my will but Yours.

To know each friend will fall away,
And heaven’s voice be still,
For hell to have its vengeful day
Upon Golgotha’s hill.
No words describe the Saviour’s plight –
To be by God forsaken
Till wrath and love are satisfied
And every sin is paid
And every sin is paid

What took Him to this wretched place,
What kept Him on this road?
His love for Adam’s cursed race,
For every broken soul.
No sin too slight to overlook,
No crime too great to carry,
All mingled in this poisoned cup ‚
And yet He drank it all,
The Saviour drank it all,
The Saviour drank it all.

You can see the original version on YouTube

(Artwork: The Arrest of Christ by Rembrandt)

April 19, 2011   2 Comments

Inspiration & Influence: There is a Fountain

William Cowper

One of the hymns I’ve come to love in recent years is William Cowper’s There is a Fountain. It’s a beautiful expression of grace and redemption that also vividly captures the costliness of salvation.

The words penetrate all the more deeply when you consider the man behind them. One of England’s most popular 18th century poets, William Cowper suffered for most of his adult life with paralyzing depression and insanity. He was saved during a stint in a mental asylum, where his caretaker was a strong Christian.

Even following his conversion, Cowper suffered from a recurring nightmare that God had rejected him and attempted suicide several times. One bright spot in his life was his 30-year friendship with John Newton, who served as Cowper’s pastor for many years. John Piper writes of their relationship:

Newton saw Cowper’s bent to melancholy and reclusiveness and drew him into the ministry of visitation as much as he could. They would take long walks together between homes and talk of God and his purposes for the church. then in 1769 Newton got the idea of collaborating with Cowper on a book of hymns to be sung by their church. He thought it would be good for Cowper’s poetic bent to be engaged.

This book of hymns became a collection known as the Olney Hymns. There is a Fountain, written after a particularly severe bout of despair, is one of Cowper’s best-known contributions.

Cowper was acutely aware of his unworthiness and “vile” nature. Yet he clung to the truth that Christ’s blood was powerful to cleanse him — and, indeed, all sinners — of all “guilty stains.”

Sojourn Music has a beautiful version based on the traditional tune by Lowell Mason. I also love Red Mountain Music’s updated melody:

There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.
Be saved, to sin no more, be saved, to sin no more;
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved, to sin no more.

E’er since, by faith, I saw the stream Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.
And shall be till I die, and shall be till I die;
Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die.

Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I’ll sing Thy power to save,
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.
Lies silent in the grave, lies silent in the grave;
When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave.

Lord, I believe Thou hast prepared, unworthy though I be,
For me a blood bought free reward, a golden harp for me!
’Tis strung and tuned for endless years, and formed by power divine,
To sound in God the Father’s ears no other name but Thine.

(For more on William Cowper’s life, I highly recommend John Piper’s biography.)

April 18, 2011   No Comments

On faith and doubt


“A faith without some doubts is like a human body without any antibodies in it. People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. . .

It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them. Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide the grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive.”

– Timothy Keller, A Reason for God


April 17, 2011   2 Comments

Cafe Hopping (4/15)

Weekly roundup of (mostly) arts-related chatter around the web:

  • Better late than never: Happy to hear that the Detroit Symphony Orchestra has ended its 6 month strike. Their season opener from last weekend is available for free online viewing.
  • Responding to bad Christian music: “Too often we are afraid to give critical feedback to young Christian musicians as long as they find a way to present the Gospel message in their songs. We must learn: Christ is not a Get out of Criticism Free card.
  • Tim Keller on C.S. Lewis, Tolkien, and why we like stories:

  • Take 5 a la Pakistan: The jazz standard with…sitar?

  • Machine Waltz: A “poetic vision” of a Brazilian textile plant.


April 15, 2011   1 Comment