A few days ago, I had the wonderful opportunity to interview “John the Methodist” of Locusts & Honey. The conversation was great and I as it progressed, I sensed more and more, an intense love for God in John’s life. As you read the interview below, you will pick up on John’s candor, honesty and deep respect for the image of God in all people. Enjoy the post, the second edition of the Pisteuomen interview series.
Michael: John, tell us a little bit about yourself: Where are you currently studying, working and doing ministry?
John: I'm an M.Div student at Asbury Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, two years through a four-year plan. This summer, I am doing a unit of CPE at Baptist Medical Center in Jacksonville and I also have a student appointment in a small town about three hours north of Orlando. I'm married and Katherine and I have a dog and a rabbit.
Michael: Okay, we've got to know, what's the rabbit's name?
John: Her name is Hyzenthlay. It's a name from the novel Watership Down by Richard Adams. It is Lapine for "fur shines like dew."
John: Thanks! I played an online Watership Down-based RPG for four years, and that's how I got into rabbits.
Michael: Well, let’s leave the subject of rabits if you don't mind and actually, we'll revisit some of those ministry topics you just mentioned, here in a few minutes. For now, I just want to say that one of the things I like most about your blog is that you update frequently. I also respect the fact that you visit other people’s sites and comment (as opposed to some who never do that). How exactly did you get into blogging and why have you continued to blog?
John: I started reading blogs back in 2001 with The Corner, the first blog at The National Review online. Then I started reading Instapundit. And I kept on reading various blogs that Instapundit linked to. I thought about having a blog for a long time but figured that I didn't have the time. Finally, I gave in to temptation in February 2005 and started Locusts & Honey. It's been tremendous fun and a great way to meet many people very different from myself. I have conversations in the blogosphere that I never have anywhere else--including seminary. For example, at seminary, I've only heard the term "emerging church" mentioned twice, and one of those times it was me who said it. In contrast, this movement is discussed daily in the Methoblogosphere.
Michael: Interesting. Well, I’ve noticed that you have an affinity for art or at least, art blogging. How did this interest come about?
John: I've had an interest in art ever since a high school art class when I wrote a paper on Pierre-Auguste Renoir. I delved into the French Impressionists. But later, quite by accident, I discovered the genius of William-Adolphe Bouguereau. The scales fell from my eyes and I fell in love with Academicism. But over time, I've had the opportunity to explore other movements. Lately, I am particularly fond of Art Nouveau and even more, Art Deco, as well as modern Tiki Art. But my heart always belongs to the Academics.
Michael: Do you have a favorite piece of artwork? If so, what is it and why?
John: I started blogging about art in order to write about my favorite artists. But later, I continued art blogging in order to create content for my blog. This discipline has compelled me to explore artists and movements new to me in order to have more content. So, it's been a great opportunity for me to push myself beyond my comfort zones. It's hard to nail down just one as “favorite.” It would be like Homer Simpson selecting his favorite donut. But a few of my favorites are “Pgymalion” and “Galatea” by Jean-Leon Gerome—the most romantic painting in the Western tradition. Other truly masterful works are “Cupidon” by William-Adolphe Bouguereau and pretty much anything by Francois Boucher. Lately, I've been captivated by the playful work of Shag.
Michael: What, in your opinion, is the relationship between art, theology and ministry?
John: I'm still working on a Christian view of aesthetics. But I think that good portraiture reminds us of the image of God written into humanity, and celebrates the love that God has for each of His children. I've used art while preaching to illustrate particular points. Even if I don't directly draw the congregation's attention to a painting, good devotional art expresses the human experience and the nature of God. For example, I've used the painting “The Red Cross” by Evelyn De Morgan to talk about the compassionate love of Christ for a suffering humanity and the hope that we have in Him.
Michael: You speak of “a suffering humanity.” Now, I’ve noticed lately from some of your blog posts, and as you mentioned earlier, that you are involved in a Clinical Pastoral ministry. Surely, you must confront human suffering there every day. However, amid what might seem like so many heart-wrenching experiences, what do you enjoy most about that?
John: I like being of service to people in pain, fear, and confusion. There is so much that an attentive ear can offer. We all need people to share our stories with but countless numbers of God's children have no one to open up to.
Michael: Has this experience helped you find an interface or relationship between theology and ethics?
John: Yes. When I enter into a patient's room, I am there to represent God's loving grace to that person. Hospitalization can be so lonely and so isolating. People feel not only apart from family but also apart from God. I am there to be a means by which God may be visibly present to people in pain. The love of God for each person—let's call it unlimited atonement—is seen in the hospital chaplaincy. Here's an example: I had one patient for a couple of weeks who was nonverbal. She had severe mental retardation, severe schizophrenia and a heart ailment, which brought her out of the state mental hospital to my facility. Her nurse said that I was wasting my time by visiting her because she was unaware of my presence. But I insisted on spending time with her whenever I was on that floor. I was not comfortable going into her room. I was not comfortable watching her. Her suffering was an appalling offense to the justice of God. But I always went in and talked to her and prayed over her. She looked around and fidgeted constantly all day, but didn't acknowledge that I was there. But at the end of my last visit to her room before she was moved elsewhere, I said "Goodbye, _____." And I heard her gasp out: “Bye”—even though she was supposed to be nonverbal! You see, God loves each person and extends his grace to all, calling them back to him, back to a life of holiness and wholeness. That's why I would not skip her as "wasted time." And that's unlimited atonement applied to the chaplaincy.
Michael: I think that, in God’s eyes, the situation you have just described is a beautiful work of art to Him. To use a bit of an anthropomorphism, I would suggest that in seeing this, God was definitely “aesthetically” pleased.
John: Ah, good analogy.
Michael: John, thanks so much for sharing your time and story today, it has been wonderful chatting with you. However, before we go, I have one last question that I’d like to ask (kind of a change of subject here): If you could own just one book (along with the Bible), what would it be and why?
John: Ah, the classic question from Fahrenheit 451. It would be the novel Shardik, by Richard Adams. It is a story of the "Power of God" becoming incarnate and roaming the earth. It is the story of how this power was abused and exploited by men, but those same men found redemption and wholeness by the selfless sacrifice of the "Power of God" for their sakes.
Michael: Fascinating stuff! Well, John, thanks again for interviewing.
John: Thank you so much for asking. I am honored and I look forward to blogging with you in the future.
Michael: Thanks brother, and God bless you, and those you come into contact with, in your various ministries.