CULTURE MAKING: The Work of our Hands

Culture-Making-cover@2I’ve just finished reading Andy Crouch’s very fine book “Culture Making,” which ends with a quote from Psalm 90 – the ancient poem-prayer which inspired the song that launched my solo career 25 years ago, back in 1989:

 

“May the favor of the Lord
Rest upon us and our land
And establish for us all
The work of our hands
Yes, the work of our hands…”

Culture, for Crouch, is simply what we make of the world. Be it language, ceremony, song, quilts, paved roads, pies, poems or… porn, there is something in us (the inherent image of God perhaps) that relentlessly wants to take the stuff of life and make something of it.  And every time we do, we open up new horizons for either the flourishing or the diminishing of life. Therefore, culture needs to be carefully discerned, and sometimes roundly rejected. But ultimately, the best way to challenge bad culture is to create good culture, the best of which, Crouch surprisingly argues, may well become the furniture of heaven.

Christianly speaking–emboldened by the recollection of exodus and resurrection–we are simply “free to make the best we can of the world, in concert with our forebears and our neighbors.” Of course, culture is not by definition sancrosanct.  Artifacts that brought newness and vitality a hundred years ago, may be wreaking havoc today. Loving discerment is an ongoing feature of good culture.

And so, today I’ll work on a song for my new album. I’ll use the creations of others (guitar, stool, capo, coffee) and I’ll sit, sheltered from the coming rains, in a lovingly decorated home that someone else has built. If it’s a good day, my efforts will contribute something good to the landscape. In other words (to borrow a metaphor from Madeleine L’Engle,) I hope to feed the lake.

The older I get, the less I care if my contributing tributary is great or small, and the more I simply care that my work flourishes life rather than diminishes it. Because whatever else I believe about God and creation, I believe God is good, and that the ongoing work of creating and cultivating is our happy collaboration in God’s good work.

“May the favour of the Lord… establish for us all the work of our hands.”

 

PSALM 90
Music and Lyric by Steve Bell

Satisfy us in the morning with Your love
Satisfy us in the morning with Your love
That we may sing for joy
And be glad in all our days
Satisfy us in the morning with Your love

Match the days Lord of our sorrow with Your joy
Match the days Lord of our sorrow with Your joy
May Your deeds be always known
To the ones you call your own
Match the days Lord of our sorrow with Your joy

May the favour of the Lord
Rest upon us and our land
And establish for us all
The work of our hands
Yes the work of our hands

Lord for us You have been a refuge from age to age
Lord for us You have been a refuge from age to age
Before the mountains were formed
And the earth and the world brought forth
You are the everlasting Lord

May the favour of the Lord
Rest upon us and our land
And establish for us all
The work of our hands
Yes the work of our hands

 

Psalm 90This version of Psalm 90 can be found on Steve’s album Solace…

9 thoughts on “CULTURE MAKING: The Work of our Hands

  1. Thank you Steve, for this timely song!! The line “match the day of our sorrow with your joy”, really spoke to me.
    I was just reading a devotional about facing our griefs, and I believe this line in your song was heaven sent so I can pray this prayer, match the day of sorrow with your joy, O Lord, my strength.

    Thank you Steve Bell.
    Regards,
    Anna Marie Page

  2. Steve, you constantly “feed the lake” of my soul. I played Psalm 90 first thing this morning. Thanks for a great start to my day.

    Every blessing as you continue your path,
    Don

  3. Thanks for this Steve. I have prayed those few words many times as I write and speak in”happy collaboration” with Jesus. What a privilege to be given apart in the building of His kingdom! Blessings,Marcia

  4. Steve,

    I agree with Don, your music certainly feeds the lake of my soul. Psalm 90 has always been one of my favorite songs. Congratulations on your 25th anniversary! Thank you so much for sharing your gift of song.

  5. Steve, your thoughtfulness has been inspirational for me these past many years. Like someone creating a dicernable path ahead of me through what sometimes seems like ordinary bush and scrub. (or perhaps it is that you have helped me see a forest in the midst of what I saw only as bushes.)
    I resonate with your comments on the magnitude of one’s impact, and I have been quite comfortable lately with the hope of contributing to a few very small tributaries rather than the rivers I had set out to change course.

  6. “there is something in us (the inherent image of God perhaps) that relentlessly wants to take the stuff of life and make something of it.” I like that definition of culture. We are all artisans of one kind or another. That we can be artisans in cooperation with our maker is an exquisite gift. Thanks for your makings, Steve.

  7. Steve, I’m just finished a four day retreat. Your blog has now confirmed what I’ve concluded: that we, as Christians, are fulfilling our calling when we are “occupied with gladness of heart” Ecclesiastes 5:20 to do what God has gifted us to do. What a delightful way to spend our time contributing to today’s culture. Thanks for sharing your gifts — I’ve drawn on them many times to be encouraged, inspired, uplifted.

  8. Steve,
    Great seeing you at Regent last week. Hope all is well. Can you send me your email so we can keep better in touch in the future. Enjoyed the Advent cd even though it was July! SO delighted, filled with the “gladness of heart” that all those years you said yes to coming to John Knox and we remain connected through the years. Shalom

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