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Wednesday, September 25, 2019

"Adorning the Dark" (Andrew Peterson)

TITLE: Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making
AUTHOR: Andrew Peterson
PUBLISHER: Nashville, TN: B & H Publishing, 2019, (224 pages).

Seeking God in our lives is a daily practice of intentionality. Seeing God clearly comes about with an awareness that His presence is always with us.
If we take our time and pay attention to the way others have done it, we would learn a great deal. The great song composer Bach is acutely aware of the presence of God as he writes the initials "S.D.G" (To God be the Glory) at the bottom of his manuscripts written for church. Eric Liddell runs for God and feels His pleasure.  Instead of getting stuck with mere admiration for these spiritual giants, author Andrew Peterson boldly writes essays, music, and various thoughts to express his devotion to God. The title of this book is exactly about that. While initially, he may seem to be in the dark about what to write and how to go about adoring God, faith is essentially about taking the first steps to be creative. Don't let the ways of the world hem us into its mold. Instead, grow our relationship with the divine through a recognition of our identity in Him; our calling from Him; and our living for Him. Peterson shares details about how he writes music. Overcoming the writer's block is essentially about a battle of fear and a leap of faith. Writing a song is essentially telling a story. Putting songs together into an album strings together stories according to a certain theme or focus. Peterson recalls his first college album which he calls "Bible album." Incredibly, this album became a tour and more importantly providing him with a platform to connect community, family, and his devotion to God.

Peterson shares about his creative moments through simple things. His Yamaha scooter became a way for him to venture into back roads and least populated areas of town; and to arrive at places where he could feel "wonderfully alone." Those were also times for him to seek God amid in the dark unexplored territories, both physically and metaphorically. In these moments, he seeks God through creation of words and song. Just write something. Don't wait for the perfect everything. Then he reminds us that art is not simply for "self-expression or self-indulgence." It is about being everything for our Creator. It is also an opportunity to die to self and to live for God. He shares about his longing for a sense of belonging after reading Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and CS Lewis's Chronicles of Narnia. The place we are in is more meaningful within the context of a community. After completing a wall one spring, he wrote a sonnet of praise that comes from that experience. From imagination to discovery; reading Madeline L'Engle's Walking on Water to standing in front of an audience; Peterson weaves together an array of artistic expressions with thoughts on faith and spirituality. Thankfully, the author does not simply tells us to write anything down. He shows us the next thing to do: Selectivity. Not everything we write about how we feel or think will appeal to the masses. There is no point in trying to share something that would not interest the audience. Like plants, we need discernment to know when to prune them or when to let them grow wild. Like writing a sermon, we begin not with the syrup but with the sap. We need to boil it own and to hone down to the most salient points.

My Thoughts
First rule of thumb in creativity: Humility. While there is a lot to learn about creativity and art from the author's musings, I applaud his humility to point us to other resources he deemed more beneficial. In doing so, he reminds us that creativity requires a heart of humility and openness to learn. In truth, many of our so-called creations are inspiration by other works of art. Whether it is a beautiful portrait or a melodious song, art often fits the "1% inspiration and 99% perspiration" maxim. Once an idea becomes a seed, the rest is the work of cultivating the idea into works of art. Learning from others could very well be that seed of inspiration. His reading list alone is a whole project by itself and could spawn many more creative projects.

Second, art is more perspiration than perfection. One of my professors always say: "Good writing is re-writing." This more or less sums up the work of art. Whether it is music or essay, a book or a poem, if one is stuck on waiting for the most perfect word or tune, we might never create anything. Peterson teaches us well right from the start to remind us the importance of putting something down. Like a spark that gets the fire going, we all need to have something to create art. We need to beware of the temptation toward perfectionism which often delays or deny our creative opportunities. Perfectionism is often a self-deceiving target. So why wait for that to happen?

Third, whatever art we create, we need a sense of direction. We need an art compass. Just like the Scriptures declare: "The heavens declare the glory of God." God created the heavens and the heavens declare the glory of God. Likewise, God created the earth and we are called to declare the praises of God in all the world. Peterson shows us the way to do so via art and creativity. Peterson concludes with the picture of what it means to be home. Home is where love is. Love is where God is. Art illuminates this search for home and for God.

In summary, adorning the dark is about waiting for that inspirational moment in the midst of our ordinary encounters with things, people, and events around us. Once that happens, we adorn that spark with enthusiasm and diligence. As we do that, may we adore the God of light more each day through our creative works.

Andrew Peterson is a singer, songwriter, author, filmmaker, and founder of "The Rabbit Room," a non-profit ministry dedicated to fostering spiritual formation and Christ-centered community through story, art, and music. The Rabbit Room is a "creative community" as well as a repository for art, music, spiritual resources, podcasts, book and music store, etc. Peterson has also written hundreds of songs and played at multiple concerts. This book is like his "love song" about his appreciation for God's love for him.

Rating: 4 stars of 5.


This book has been provided courtesy of B & H Publishing and NetGalley without requiring a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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