Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Shaw, Luci: Breath for the Bones

Book Review

Luci Shaw: Breath for the Bones: Imagination and Spirit: A Reflection on Creativity and Faith, Thomas Nelson, 2007.
ImageUpdate March 2008
Art and faith need each other to flourish. That’s the message at the core of Breath for the Bones: Art, Imagination and Spirit, a graceful patchwork of meditations by poet and spiritual writer Luci Shaw on creativity and its intimate relationship with the life of the soul. Drawn from Shaw’s writings over the years, this is a book for anyone who has felt the creative impulse and wondered where it comes from and how to cultivate it. Creativity is a seed planted in each of us, she professes. It’s just a matter of recognizing it as the divine gift it is and helping it to grow. Knowing well that the church can be leery of the imagination—unpredictable and impractical, it must therefore be dangerous—Shaw gently lays those fears to rest with some theological groundwork. She reminds us that the excessive beauty of creation reveals a God who endorses creativity for its own sake, and that Christ himself uses stories and metaphor to communicate truths that would otherwise diminish and fall flat.
What’s so lovely about this collection of accumulated wisdom is the way it effortlessly weaves the theological with the immediate, personal voice of a poet who has been at this delicate work for decades. Shaw tells stories, shares journal entries and poems, and paints bright images to draw us into her own vital relationship with creativity and faith. Along the way, we learn the importance of leaving receptors open to the arrival of the Spirit as muse, who comes without warning like a breeze lifting the leaves; to face fear and take the risks that leave us vulnerable to challenge and growth; to savor the tiniest details as glimmers of the divine; and to learn to dwell in the troughs and shadows, and trust they are necessary contrasts to the coming light. From practical advice for growing artists and handy questions and writing prompts in the back, to moments of ecstatic affirmation of art making as a way of seeing more deeply, Shaw’s “wild hope” is that in a world increasingly fragmented and myopic, “creative Christians, by means of their ‘baptized imaginations,’ may be able to help integrate the universe by... seeing the whole picture as if through God’s eyes... and saying ‘Yes, I see. This is like that. There is meaning in it.’”