Book Recommendation from a Pastor
“Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making” by Andrew Peterson
Recommendation by Pastor David Lee
I first stumbled across the music of Andrew Peterson while I was in college. I had been listening to a lot of Caedmon’s Call, which led me to the solo efforts of Derek Webb, which rabbit trailed to an unmastered demo album from the Normals and the spinoff work of their front man Andrew Osenga. I was digging deeper and deeper into this Nashville Christian music scene, and I felt like I was trying to break into a group of cool kids that had no idea I existed. But at the center of it all was Andrew Peterson. In fact, I think most of my musical forays ended up being breadcrumbs to what would be a major musical staple for my life. I love so much about Andrew Peterson. I love the style: a folksy singer-songwriter with a nasally voice that made me feel like he could be a normal guy. I love the story: he’s a Christian, and he’s writing songs, but they aren’t the corporate worship songs that I was used to hearing. They are personal, they are intimate, they are testimonial. I love the beauty: I continue to be enraptured by the economy and depth of Peterson’s language, as he says true things in breathtaking ways. I have dug into every Andrew Peterson that has ever been released, and I think they have dug into me.
So I was excited to finally get around to reading Peterson’s, “Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making.” He has written before, notably his young adult fantasy fiction series, The Wingfeather Saga, but Adorning the Dark reads more like a personal memoir intro. He writes this book to give a window into his perspective on songwriting, arts, creativity, making, and the like. It’s not a manual or tutorial on how to do any of those things, but more Peterson’s reflections on how he has come to embrace his calling to do these things. As he puts it, “That calling, as I understand it, is to use whatever gifts I’ve been given to tell the truth as beautifully as I can” (5).
He believes that each of us have a unique voice, a unique story, a unique perspective because each of us have a unique relationship with our Heavenly Father. And one of the ways we can honor our Father is to use our voice, tell our story, and share our perspective in whatever ways we can. He writes, “This is part of my calling—to make known the heart of God. And because he holds a special place in his heart for me and me alone (just as he holds a special place for you), my story stands a chance to be edifying to my sisters and brothers, just as your story, your insight, your revelation of God’s heart, is something the rest of us need” (8).
The book ticks a lot boxes in the weird Venn diagram that is me: music, home repair, language, story-telling, making stuff, pretty things in general. And Peterson’s perspective really gave voice to a lot of those longings, and it really gave me permission to pursue those longings as a service to and savoring of Christ.
If you have a creative bone in your body, or ever wanted a creative bone in your body, I’m pretty sure that you will find Peterson to be a friendly hand on the shoulder and an encouraging voice in your ear. I am hopeful that Lighthouse will be a place where stories of God’s grace will be told in all manner of ways.
Some juicy quotes that I enjoyed:
- “You don’t need a record contract to serve God with your gifts. You don’t need to move to Nashville. You just need to stay where you are, play wherever you can, and keep your eyes peeled. You never know what might happen” (9).
- “If you’re familiar with Bach, you may know that at the bottom of his manuscripts, he wrote the initials, ‘S. D. G.’ Soli Deo Gloria, which means ‘glory to God alone.’ What you may not know is that at the top of his manuscripts he wrote, ‘Jesu Juva,’ which is Latin for ‘Jesus, help!’ There’s no better prayer for the beginning of an adventure. Jesus, you’re the source of beauty: help us make something beautiful; Jesus, you’re the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that made all creation: give us words and be with us in this beginning of this creation; Jesus, you’re the light of the world: light our way into this mystery; Jesus, you love perfectly and with perfect humility: let this imperfect music bear your perfect love to every ear that hears it” (14-15).
- “The point is, time is unfolding like a scroll, and we’re letters on the parchment, helping to make up the words that tell the story. Each of us is a character, in both senses of the word. At times, characters become aware that they’re part of a story, and that brings the realization that, first, there is an author, and second, they are not him. This realization is good and proper, and leads into the courts of praise, if not the throne room itself” (18).
- “Those of us who write, who sing, who paint, must remember that to a child a song may glow like a nightlight in a scary bedroom. It may be the only thing holding back the monsters. That story may be the only beautiful, true thing that makes it through all the ugliness of a little girl’s world to rest in her secret heart. May we take that seriously. It is our job, it is our ministry, it is the sword we swing in the Kingdom, to remind children that the good guys win, that the stories are true, and that a fool’s hope may be the best kind” (106).
- “When we manage to make something pretty, it’s only so because we are ourselves a flourish on a greater canvas” (113).
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