A Sloppy Wet Kiss That Went Too Far. Some Think.

Rembrandt - Supper at Emmaus - WGA19115

Some ruckus was  raised in the blogosphere lately here and here, both writers offended by Ann Voskamp’s heightened expression of worship at the end of her book, “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.”   In a rapture of thanksgiving expressed before Rembrandt’s painting, Supper at Emmaus, in Paris, as Mozart plays, she expresses the apotheosis of her book’s theme,”There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”

Now that I have provided a helpful context, and you have fixed in your brain  this phrase, the big of giving thanks, you may now read the controversial passage.   I have highlighted a key phrase to understanding  in bold letters. Other emphases  are the authors’ own.

“I fly to Paris and discover how to make love to God.”

“God lays down all of His fullness into all the emptiness.  I am in Him.  He is in me.  I embrace God in the moment.  I give Him thanks and I bless God and we meet and couldn’t I make love to God, making every moment love for Him?  To know Him the way Adam knew Eve.  Spirit skin to spirit skin.

“This is what His love means.  I want it: union.  This is the one gift He longs for in return for His unending gifts, and this even I could give Him, and anywhere.  Anywhere–in the kitchen scrubbing potatoes, in the arching cathedrals, in the spin of laundry  and kids and washing toilets–anywhere I can have intimate communion with the Maker of heaven and earth.  I can’t help myself here.  Inches from the canvas, strains of Mozart carrying, I whisper eucharisteo:

“Thank you, God, for the bread of now …
for Your Son and sacrifice  …
for the love song You keep singing, the gift of Yourself that You keep giving…
for the wild wonder of You in this moment.

“A stranger on the road, my cold heart burns (Luke 24:32) and He is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh and I am his and He is mine and I want to touch the paint.  I want to run my fingertips across the oils, let the colors saturate my skin, let them run into my blood.  I want to be in the painting, Supper at Emmaus, the painting to be in me.  I want to be in God and God to be in me, to exchange love and blessings and caresses and, like the apostle-pilgrims, my eyes open and I know it because of this burning of the heart: this moment is a divine interchange.  I raise my hand slightly, finger imperceptibly the air before the canvas and this is intercourse disrobed of its connotations, pure and unadulterated: a passing between.  A connection, a communicating, an exchange, between tender Bridegroom and His bride.

“The intercourse of soul with God is the very climax of joy.”

(One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, pp. 201, 217-218)

Now before you go running to the shed to grab a pitchfork, ask yourself:  Did the writer ever say, God made love to her, too? Was she careful to write this, “intercourse (of soul) disrobed of  its connotations, pure and unadulterated, a passing between.”

This is not a bodice-ripper with God, here.  This is a tender moment of pure joy in which a woman uses the metaphor of intercourse to express the epitome of thanksgiving and  satisfaction and pleasure in what is clearly a sublime moment for her.  The whole sensory experience was  a gift of God to her–she aches to express the thanks she feels, and since we were created with lovely bodies that do lovely things, and since the giving of intimate love in marriage is really the loveliest thing, it is a logical choice.  She has been removed from the context of her book,  that of living fully in everyday life, and she is now transported to Paris! To Mozart! To Rembrandt! In those words, in the wild wonder of those blazingly bold words, her thanksgiving reaches its peak of joy.  I would not have chosen it, as my sensitivities have been very shaped by the controversies over the “Jesus is Your Boyfriend” movement, but I consider it a slander to say she is advocating her readers  should imagine they are having  sex with God.

This choice of  “intercourse of soul” is merely a metaphor for a kind of intimate communion.  A metaphor Christ gave to His church,  of which she is presumed to be a member. Nothing unorthodox here, except if she ascribes a real sexuality to God, and so I repeat it here and bold it out, it is a slander to say she is advocating her readers  should imagine they are having  sex with God.

You would have to take Spurgeon to task for the same ‘heresy’, because he writes of a similar passion for Christ, and uses similar metaphors taken from Song of Solomon, here:   He says, “love, strong, fervent love, aspires to higher tokens of regard, and closer signs of fellowship…

By kisses we suppose to be intended those varied manifestations of affection by which the believer is made to enjoy the love of Jesus. The kiss of reconciliation we enjoyed at our conversion, and it was sweet as honey dropping from the comb. The kiss of acceptance is still warm on our brow, as we know that he hath accepted our persons and our works through rich grace. The kiss of daily, present communion is that which we pant after to be repeated day after day, till it is changed into the kiss of reception, which removes the soul from earth, and the kiss of consummation which fills it with the joy of heaven. Faith is our walk, but fellowship sensibly felt is our rest. Faith is the road, but communion with Jesus is the well from which the pilgrim drinks. O lover of our souls, be not strange to us; let the lips of thy blessing meet the lips of our asking; let the lips of thy fulness touch the lips of our need, and straightway the kiss will be effected.

The delicate sensibilities of his  Victorian readers must have been sorely tried by those words. Kisses to pant after, to be repeated? The ladies must have worn a path to the fainting couch!  More recently there was a  similar  furor over the song David Crowder covered, written by John Mark McMillan, titled  “How He Loves.”  Crowder had to burka-ize the original lyric which offended many, to make it something our grandmothers could sing in church.  The original line said,

“So heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss and my heart turns violently inside of my chest”

and many believers said “ewww…disgusting.”  And I didn’t like that line much either, because we were disengaging from a church that was engaging in the False Prophetic, and I was really tired of hearing how Jesus is Your Boyfriend.  But I did love the chorus, and felt like I was being soothed by the Father in a rocking chair when I sang it.   I needed soothing then.  I just couldn’t sing about the  messy kiss.  What a relief it was to me to be able to sing that song with a clear conscience, when I discovered the authorial intent of the song, here:

The idea behind the lyric is that the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of earth converge in a way that is both beautiful and awkwardly messy. Think about the birth of a child, or even the death of Jesus himself. These miracles are both incredibly beautiful and incredibly sloppy (“gory” may be more realistic, but “Heaven meets earth like a gory mess” didn’t seem to have the same ring). Why does the church have such a problem with things being sloppy? Do we really think we’re fooling anyone on Sunday morning, especially God? Are we going to offend him?

I think if  both these passionate writers, McMillan and Voskamp, understood the context on the other side, why the offense  is taken, if both of these creators could understand how grieved many are, how they wish writers could choose less graphic metaphors because  these things do go on, (and unfortunately, this video interview, “Intimacy for Miracles” has been removed–the ‘event’ is now over for CBN, but interestingly, all the other interviews from the event are still up.  “Mama” Heidi’s beatification continues apace. But in this censored video, Gordon Robertson had to put Heidi Baker back in her chair, when she was prostrate under the table making orgasmic sounds.  And saying God was giving  her pleasure that way. That’s blasphemy!  But,

This. Is. Not. That.

So I have great sympathy for those who have raised objections; believe me I get it! I understand the problem.  And at first glance, especially with the provocative way this quote was framed by the offended authors of the posts above, I raised my eyebrows, too.  But I began to think  to myself how clumsy words are.  I am a poet.   I struggle so many times with unhelpful metaphors, many that I have had to abandon because they got in the way of the ultimate truth of what  I wanted to express.  Artists who fumble around with language do not always paint with letters so illuminatingly as Rembrandt did with his chiaroscuro of oil paints.  Writers with words are very murky, and muddled, and we mostly miss the sublimity of what we really sought to express. It is so “through a glass darkly”, with wordsmiths.

So let’s give grace to each other,  as long as we see only these blurred reflections in a very dim mirror.  We feel our clumsiness most keenly when Heaven meets our own earthiness in a tender moment.  Words fail. How I wish everyone could know these moments!  And reader, if you have never, ever, caught your breath at the thought of Jesus, and your heart never skipped a beat when you heard His name,  and if you don’t ache with pure  longing for your Heavenly Bridegroom’s soon return–those kinds of  things so clumsily communicated by all these artists, (except Rembrandt!), then I feel  sorry for you. You are missing something precious, and I think Jesus longs for you to long for Him in that pure,  and pleasurable, way.  To pant for Him, as Spurgeon scandalously writes.  Our Lord is pleased and promises a reward for His clumsy, but  faithful lovers, who long for His appearing.

Here is Kim Walker’s passionate version of “How He Loves.”    It is beautifully sung, but  posting it here does not mean I endorse Jesus Culture. Far from it!  This false movement evangelizing churched youth is an unpaid bill of a passionless orthodoxy.Until we find and rest in that fellowship that is “sensibly felt,” as Spurgeon himself so beautifully modeled, we will lose more of our youth to these counterfeits. Listen and weep at the end, as Kim stirs the crowd into an emotional frenzy, and  perfectly prepares their hearts for the pitch of  the 24/7 Prayer Movement, and for  IHOP’s Bridal Paradigm– I spot Winnie Banov drunkenly swaying in the background. Jesus Culture is softcore false prophetic.  And thus our Enemy counterfeits this real truth, that  God has passionate love for us, and longs for a passionate response from His bride. And so the enemy  herds the thousands and thousands of youth in the audience into false-gospel preaching Churches like Bethel Redding and the  re-education camps IHOP calls  prayer rooms, and “internships.” 

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21 Comments on “A Sloppy Wet Kiss That Went Too Far. Some Think.”

  1. Laurie M. Says:

    So this is what the fuss was about?

    If there’s one thing I’ve noticed since I’ve begun putting writing out there for the world to see, it’s that people are not always very careful readers. They often read things into my words that are not there, and fail to notice things that clearly are – often the very statement which would correct their own misunderstanding. For instance, I may add a qualifier such as, “If this is true, then…” Yet I will have people saying, “How could you assume this is true!” They’ve missed the point that what I’m addressing is the possibility.

    In this case I felt the writer made it very clear what she was speaking of, and that it was pure and lovely. I’m concerned for us. When we lose the ability to attach our hearts and souls – our emotions – to our relationship with Christ we are in danger of sinking into cold, dead orthodoxy. Loveless marriages. Duty and commitment void of warmth or depth of feeling. God wants and deserves our greatest passions.

    David danced before the Lord with all his might, in his undergarments, in public. His wife found his behavior undignified and offensive. God rendered her barren for the rest of her days. May God spare me a barren soul.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Oh, how I thank God for you Laurie!

      I am so glad you understood my case, and I agree with your observations about how readers are not careful. I honestly think it is the effect of technologies such as Twitter and Facebook that have trained readers not read beyond 300 words. It is a dangerous place for a Christian to be, this world of carefully crafted sound bites.

      So thank you for your lovely reply, and I wholeheartedly agree–may God spare cold love toward Him, I would rather die now than drift into lukewarmness.

  2. Karen Butler Says:

    The author of that original post attacking Ann Voskamp’s book seems as lacking in logical skills as she is in those of textual criticism. She has deleted my comments from that thread, claiming I made an “ad hominem” attack. I did not. My comments were on topic, similar to this post, but shorter.

    When I concluded, I made an aside comment to this blogger alone,easily deleted from the entire text, saying I noted “Food Porn” and “Pioneer Woman” on her blogroll. I said I would rather be accused of encouraging believers to make love to God than make love to food–a silly preference I know, but its just me!

    This odd idolatry of our sustenance is something I find obscenely evident in food blogs, and PW has been a trend-setter in this respect. I blame Pioneer Woman’s otherwise very amusing blog for the unfortunate tendency among cooking blogs to ogle the food they are making in a weird and gluttonous way.

    Now note, I was expressing a preference of mine–who knew it was so controversial? But my comments were not an ad hominem attack.

  3. Karen Butler Says:

    I posted this on John Samson’s blog and hoped that although he had said he had closed comments, he would post what I wrote in rebuttal:

    Dear Mr. Samson,

    You said,

    “express ourselves to Him with these sexual connotations, then this would be something all Christians should aspire to…”

    But that’s NOT what Ann Voskamp wrote. In fact she said the opposite. Not only did you not read the book to get the full context of the writer’s thinking, you did not properly read the quote you posted!

    She actually wrote:

    “this is intercourse disrobed of its connotations, pure and unadulterated: a passing between. A connection, a communicating, an exchange, between tender Bridegroom and His bride.”

    She did not write that God made love to her. She wants us to remove from our our minds the connotations her words bring up. She is not saying the Jesus is Your Boyfriend stuff, that is the heresy you decry. She is using a metaphor, that in the context of the entire book, is probably the only logical one she could have chosen.

    Her point in the book is giving thanks in everyday things, and she summarizes it well here:
    “”There is a way to live the big of giving thanks in all things. It is this: to give thanks in this one small thing. The moments will add up.”

    and I write on my blog about Ann’s bold choice to use this metaphor:

    “This is a tender moment of pure joy in which a woman uses the metaphor of intercourse to express the epitome of thanksgiving and satisfaction and pleasure in what is clearly a sublime moment for her. The whole sensory experience was a gift of God to her–she aches to express the thanks she feels…”

    Words are clumsy indeed when trying to communicate deep things. We fail. Perhaps Ann did. God will be the judge.Not you, or Jules either. I told Every Day Mommy I would much rather be guilty of encouraging believers to make love to God, than to encourage them to make love to food, as she does on her blogroll–”Food Porn”,et al. ( I find the ogling of food and the weird lustful writing such as used by Pioneer Woman to be obscene and deeply offensive. Some very dear to me struggle with food disorders.) Christians are so quick to decry sexual sins, but are so silent about the celebration of gluttony, a very great sin against the body.

    Please read my post in which I expand upon these thoughts. I would greatly welcome a respectful dialogue about these things, as I have been banned, and my entire objection deleted from Jules’ thread for “ad hominem” attacks. She is as poorly skilled at logic as she is at textual criticism. I was not attacking her. I was merely expressing my own preference, incomprehensible as that might be to her.

    So, thank you for listening, and I hope you read my post, carefully. I welcome any respectful feedback.

  4. chamblee54 Says:

    I admit to not reading all of the posts and comments pertaining to this discussion. To be honest, some of this simply is not interesting to me.
    What I do get out of this is the problem of taking something that was intended as poetry, and treating it as prosaic literal “truth”.
    One of my basic beliefs is “G-d does not write books”. The Bible was written, translated, copied, edited ( by committee)…all by people, in the languages of people. There simply is no way to declare something like this “The word of G-d”
    The first commandment says to hold no other G-d before you. When you declare a book to be “The Word of G-d”, don’t you, in effect, make a G-d out of that book? We can split semantic hairs on this, but to me the answer is yes.
    When you put the focus of your religion on a book, and take the metaphoric stories of that text as literal truth, you are going to have problems. The issues I see here is just one example.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Chamblees, welcome to the discussion!

      It must be mystifying to you, except if you would understand that our focus as Christians is not on a book, but on the person of Christ, and understand what we mean when we quote John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God…”, and that we believe that Jesus is the incarnate Word of God…”The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth”

      So I do not worship a book, or a set of doctrines, but a God who chose to reveal the nature of Himself in a series of wonderfully connected books, all authored by three persons in One–YAHWEH. It wasn’t just ‘some persons’ ideas about God, or “produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”

      And Chamblees, Jesus said of this issue, of knowing that the Bible is the word of God, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” I do pray for you, that you will know and believe, and trust Jesus to be your Savior–that is His will for your life.

      I am so glad you paid me a visit again–I hope you keep reading, and get a glimpse of how satisfying it is to know Jesus. Did you read my new page, “What Walking in the Spirit Looks Like? (Not so much preaching there, don’t worry!)

  5. Laurie M. Says:

    Well, Karen, other than one or two blog entries, I’d never read Ann Voskamp before now. I guess I’m going to have to pick up her book and read it through. I appreciate your putting her words in a helpful context here. Interestingly just the day before you posted this her name came up in a comment thread on Facebook. At first I thought this must be what you were referring to. Apparently it was not related to this, but rather to something she had posted on her blog which someone took offense to, so she deleted it. I have no idea what it was.

    It’s hard to write anything on the internet without getting someone all fired up. My husband recently started doing poetry readings on YouTube. My only advice to him was to disable the comments. His eyes got big when he realized his oversight, and off he ran to do that very thing. He knows as well as I do, internet is a dangerous place to bare a soul.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Laurie, sorry for not answering you (and you too, Chamblees!) Once a month on the second Wednesday, it is my joy to plan, shop and cook a meal for 150 guests. I do it with my kids, and some church friends, but it does absorb my attention for that time.

      Here’s a confession: I was indignant that she was slandered, but I don’t read much Ann Voskamp, because all my faults as a writer are magnified in her style–that first person breathless, exalted language that is oblique for the uninitiated. The kind of writing that makes my boys roll their eyes, and my engineer husband hand it back to me and want some bullets inserted into the text. Clarity of communication is a foremost goal for me as a writer now, not just pretty words nicely arranged. Teaching autistic kids was very clarifying as to the purpose of language and the value of simplicity. Very humbling for this fast talker.

      I’ll look forward to finding Paul on Youtube! There are some wonderful readers there.

      • Laurie M. Says:

        Well, now that you opened that can of worms, I can say that hers is not my style, which is why I don’t follow her blog. I have little use for that kind of language myself, but I see that as a bit of a weakness on my part. I’m not a typical female and don’t have much use for romantic or flowery language. But that’s me. I wish I could fly to heights of spiritual ecstasy, but I’m too bound up with odd limitations, some natural parts of my personality, some likely the effects of sin. So I honor the abilities of others to do what I cannot. We are all one body with different gifts and functions.

        I hate to see someone like that picked apart. It’s so wrong to belittle someone’s worship.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        “I wish I could fly to heights of spiritual ecstasy”
        I agree that it is wrong to belittle a worship that is decent and orderly, but absolutely would take issue with some worship that draws more attention to the worshiper than to the Savior. That is fleshy, and not Spirit and Truth worship.

        For example, after seeing some of the the hyper-emotional worship that is a regular occurance of the False Prophetic, I am more inclined to distrust an individuals’ exalted worship occurance in public than be encouraged by it. Ecstatic manifestations in that movement set up an elite class of those who had the ‘imparting’, and who thus became a sort of priestly caste. Those did not posess those outward ‘gifts’ felt like they were second-best.

        I would hate you to feel that there was something wrong with you, Laurie, like you’re a spirtitual dwarf because outwardly it is difficult for you to express a more unihibited form of worship–men, we look too much at the outward expression, and I am so glad God looks at the heart. He knows you love Him much.

  6. chamblee54 Says:

    “I hate to see someone like that picked apart. It’s so wrong to belittle someone’s worship”
    Is it possible that kindness and good will is more important that agreeing with the same ideas?
    Even though we disagree on what are, to some, major issues, I am always treated with kindness when I come to visit here.
    I wrote a post once…http://chamblee54.wordpress.com/2009/08/15/show-kindness-to-your-enemy/…where I speculated that Jesus was mistranslated when he said to Love thy enemy. Maybe he said you should show kindness to those with whom you disagree.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      “I am always treated with kindness when I come to visit here.”

      I am so glad you see the relentless holding up of Jesus I give you every time you visit as kindness, Chamblees! It relieves me considerably, and gives me such hope for you!

      I have been meaning to tell you that I have made several visits to your blog, and have been very intrigued by what you write. You write very amusingly. Truth is so important to you, and you are painstaking (Huffpo, Sullivan and Savage!) in your pursuit of it.

      “The moral of this story is that you should not believe everything you read.” Amen! And as I’ve pointed out, show context, as well as the links to the story. The way a story is presented has everything to do with how it will be percieved.

      “Maybe he said you should show kindness to those with whom you disagree.”
      And Jesus did say do good to our enemies, it is true. But He did more than that–He died for us, His own enemies, who do not just disagree, but hate the truth He tries to tell us–“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I long to follow in His footsteps with that kind of sacrificial self-giving love, as it goes way beyond kindness.

      • Karen Butler Says:

        And I forgot to say–you do wonders with those pictures! Mr. Turk would be proud of you.

  7. I found this to be an interesting discussion. I did read Ann’s book cover to cover and didn’t like it. I wrote a review of it at my book blog.

    Her style of writing didn’t appeal to me at all and was distracting. I also had issues with some of her thoughts that did remind me of the teachings from the emergent church and the contemplative spirituality movement, both of which I disagree with. However, that is just my opinion of the book itself, not of the author as a person.

    I know some believers can be reactionary to things like this but others seem to jump on every Christian bandwagon that comes around without testing the teaching against what scripture teaches. If there are things that seem to raise a red flag, then it’s our responsibility to figure out why.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Thank you for stopping by, Cindy. I’m sorry I couldn’t reply right away.

      I appreciate your attitude of being a Berean, and measuring everything by the Scriptures–your discernment of some influence of some Contemplative spirituality is probably accurate–but I think it is a orthodox book.

      In the same way, I do not like some aspects of CS Lewis’ theology or some of his companions, yet I have been blessed by much of his writing, and have many quotes of his on this blog. If Ann Voskamp drifts more toward that unfortunate shore,(and I would hope her critics are earnestly praying that she clings to the gospel of truth as well as grace), then I will make the necessary reassessment. There is much of value in the overall message: perseverance in thanksgiving and growing in intimate communion with Christ.

      Ewwww, gross is not enough for me yet.

  8. chiefofleast Says:

    I remember when I first heard the Crowder rendering of “How He Loves”. I was disappointed that he omitted the “sloppy wet kiss” line; I endorse MacMillian’s original to anyone who will listen…raw…anthemic…deeply moving especially when he breaks down at the end…I also love “Skeleton Bones” and “Death in His grave” in his most album.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      I didn’t like that cover too much either, and I appreciated so much the generous spirit McMillan showed towards Crowder’s request to edit it.

      I thought seriously of posting his lovely version of the song, but I wanted to highlight the vacuum Satan exploits when the need for passionate intimate communion with Christ is not taught in orthodox pulpits. Walker’s working up the crowd illustrates this well–we long to express our love to God this way, there is always a kernel of truth in the lie.

      And thanks for the tip on the songs McMillan’s newest album. I’ll look for them.

  9. Susan Mc. Says:

    Thank you for this post that gives me insight into the controversy. I’m so “out of it” that I just found out there was a controversy. If one is a frequent reader
    of Ann’s blog then the understanding is there of where she is coming from and her heart. I appreciated your citing of Spurgeon! Very interesting.

    • Karen Butler Says:

      Thanks for your comment, Susan! I have been neglecting my blog of late–I was not sure what direction I wanted to go–so I am sorry for not responding to your comment promptly.

      I agree about the Spurgeon quote–it answers every objection to Ann’s use of intimacy with God as a metaphor for longing for more of Him, and thankfulness for His work in our lives.

  10. Anny r. Says:

    Typical left brain vs right brain conversation. Ridiculous! As if God didn’t have many facets to him! Maybe Ann Voskamp is closer to him than you… Ever read God’s love letter in Song of solomon? Shocked too?

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