Archives For Imagination

I almost hate to admit it, but every time I pick up a new book by C. S. Lewis, after the first chapter, I check the cover to make sure Amazon mailed me the right book. By the end of the second, I’m questioning the cultish love that Evangelicals hold for Lewis when his writing style is so vague and drab. By chapter three, I’m hanging on for dear life, just based on the principle of the thing—I mean, I love Narnia after all. Fifty pages more and I’m confessing my disappointment to a friend like it’s some sin. As the pages keep turning, I nearly give up hope. But then it happens: the one line that changes everything.

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I last suffered through this emotional roller coaster while reading, for the first time, Till We Have Faces. As I plodded, then dragged, myself through the book, I began to lose faith in Lewis all over again. But, then, in the final chapter, at the end of the first paragraph, in a single sentence, his genius overwhelmed me again. With a handful of words, Lewis turned a disappointing bedtime read into a life-transforming, leave-me-gasping-and-flipping-back-to-read-it-again book. That one sentence made all the difference. 


Life is like a Lewis book


It strikes me that life often works like a Lewis book. We’re trudging through some page in our story, disappointed. The writing feels dull. The plot seems to be going nowhere. The tragedies break our hearts Continue Reading…

Let’s be honest, we’ve all had days where work makes us angry. Thanks to Chris Dortch for being honest about it for the Finding God at Work series. 

 

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Blasted crape myrtles. I know most people wouldn’t describe them so, but their pretty, pink posies fall in droves, faster than my net can skim them off the water. I know I should enjoy the hot sun on my back, the cool breeze fighting back against the warmth, and the freedom for my mind to wander—from Aslan’s bright shore beyond the Great Sea all the way to the bloody streets of Victor Hugo’s French Revolution, from the emeralds of Oz to the dark stage haunted by the Phantom.


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The strong smell of chlorine wrenches me from the worlds whispered into my ears, and I have to step back before the fumes overpower me. I really should pay more attention to my job. This daydreaming landed me in the pool last summer. I pull out my headphones and focus on the plague of pink that has now consumed the pool. How is this even possible? There are more flowers now than when I got here half an hour ago Continue Reading…

As I scroll through the Rio 2016 app on my phone, soaking up every video highlight, I wonder what makes the summer Olympics so mesmerizing. Maybe their infrequency helps them resist assimilation into the normalcy of life that is Sunday afternoon football or Monday night hockey. And I wonder about the inner life of Olympians. What’s it like to be Michael Phelps commuting home after one of those long days we all have, when nobody’s watching and everything goes wrong, wondering “Why am I doing this? Does it really matter?”


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Sometimes I doubt the significance of my work as a nurse practitioner. And some of my stay-at-home friends wonder whether parenting and housekeeping is doing enough. Others feel unfulfilled in their work at the bank, school, or restaurant. But what about people who tumble and jump and swim for a living? Are the Olympics just another version of gladiator fights, less gruesome but equally excessive and ultimately pointless?  

 

I don’t think so. While Simone Biles’s life as an American gymnast might look nothing like mine, she goes to work just like I do. If you’ve followed this blog, you’ve heard me talk about work as one of the ways we unfold God’s hidden potential in creation, displaying it for others to see and using it for their good, so that they can worship God more than they did before Continue Reading…

Lord, 

We acknowledge that our lives in this country have differed from those of our black brothers and sisters. While we’ve experienced the common pain and grief of life, our skin color has usually exempted us from the cold looks, stinging slurs, and hasty gavels of discrimination.

We have, sometimes without even knowing it, repeated racial stereotypes in our hearts. We have at time, in our churches, failed to acknowledge injustice when it didn’t touch us personally. We have been inconsistent. We’ve prayed against the industry that rips fetuses from pregnant wombs. We’ve prayed against the beheading of Christians in other countries. We’ve prayed for villages ruptured by earthquakes and cities devastated by bombs. But we’ve ignored the injustice grinding down on the people who live in our own neighborhoods and cities. 

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Photo courtesy of Nancy Andrea D. via creationswap.com

We have failed to see. And failing to see, we’ve failed to care. And failing to care, we have failed to act. But as the list grows, of black civilians killed by individuals who’ve abused their power, we acknowledge that something is wrong. 

Help us face a problem that we would prefer to ignore. Help us to remember that, as your children, you hold us responsible to care for our neighbors. Help us feel in the bowels of our faith your heart for the powerless, your anger at their oppression, and how you sacrificed your own comfort to bring them peace. Help us to face the heat of your justice and our own failure in neglecting it Continue Reading…

Summer’s here which means it’s time to grab a glass of iced tea and feel the sunshine on your legs as you get lost in a book. So, as you pile up a summer reading list, here’s ten suggestions that will deepen your love for God, the world that he made, and the story he’s writing. 

 

Fiction

 

1. Gilead by Marilyn Robinson (Amazon, Audible)

 

  • If you could pack all the laziness of a summer afternoon into a book, Gilead would be it. Oh, and it won a Pulitzer prize despite being chalked full of explicitly Christian themes. How did Robinson manage to pull that off? She writes about life in a way that sinks into your bones and renews your wonder for the physical world.
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2. Paul by Walter Wangerin (Amazon, Audible)

 

  • Step onto the streets of Corinth, smell the freshly cut leather and see Paul hunched on a stool with a needle in his hand. Told from the perspective of Priscilla, Timothy, Seneca, and others, this novel will draw you into the drama of the church’s struggle to discover exactly what the Gospel is and isn’t. By filling in sensory details you’ll get a fresh look at the wonderful messiness of the Church’s early years Continue Reading…

Growing up in church, I wanted the truth of God to burn in my chest, but too often it sat shelved in my brain, collecting dust. In youth group, I learned about this disease. I had a breakdown between my head and my heart. Other people had it, too. In fact, everyone seemed to be talking about it, but while they diagnosed the problem in sermons, Bible studies, and at my Christian college, no one seemed to have a cure. 

 

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You can’t cure a nagging cough without treating the underlying pneumonia, but that’s what many Christians were trying to do. The gulf between our brains and our hearts wasn’t the problem, it was only a symptom of an underlying disease, an infection that started with Modernity. 

 

The real infection was the belief that truth is ultimately a package of facts Continue Reading…

This piece of flash fiction first ran in Warden Magazine, February 2016.


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Drops of rain gather on the sill, like peasants on a feast day, then tumble down the wall. The rivulets remind me of things long ago—the tall Scots pines at the river where Mamm used to scrub our clothes, the maidens’ ribbons at Beltane festival.

 

I watch the trickle find the ground and then trace its way along the wall towards the shadow in the corner. Slowly, a faint aroma, but rich and earthy, mingles with the familiar dank of stone and clay. Perhaps tomorrow, before Eucharist, the clouds will tire of our burgh and allow the sun to illume the greenness of that clump of moss.

 

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A shock of light outlines the window with its overhanging sign. When they asked me what to etch on it, I said “His Alone.”

 

Two years now I have spent behind these walls—these soldiers of my soul. They bind my body to this square of dirt, away from the plague of gluttony, the temptation of the minstrel’s song, and the lesser loves of ploughmen and bairns. I refuse to be this world’s chattle, harnessed to it like a ploughing ox. No, I will soar, like the goshawks in the sky beyond my window Continue Reading…

When I first saw The Tortured Christby Brazilian sculptor Guido Rocha, it didn’t ask my permission, it just went ahead and seared itself into my subconscious. Every couple of months since then, The Tortured Christ pops up, uninvited. All of the sudden he’s there, blood splattering on the carpet of my brain and his screams ricocheting off the walls. It’s rather uncomfortable. 


I’d prefer a visit from the placid Jesus–the one who’s taking his torture like a champ, the Jesus that dangles on the end of necklaces, Jesus-asleep-on-the-cross. But, this Jesus keeps showing up–skin retracting between his ribs, muscles seizing in agony–and, honestly, when he stops by, I don’t start humming worship songs or try to gaze deeply into his eyes. I want to look away.

 

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The truth is, there’s a lot of things I’d rather look away from–not just Rocha’s Christ–11.4 million Syrians who have been displaced from their homes. Four and half million of them eke out an existence on the border of other countries, without heat in the winter or basic health care, relying on UN food coupons to keep them just beyond the grip of starvation.   

 

I’d rather not notice the man who holds a plastic cup at the intersection several blocks from my house. It gets complicated to think about the addictions that might be driving him to the streets, the shattered family he represents, or the burden of what it means for me to get involved Continue Reading…

Ever since high school, I’ve had a rocky relationship with art. Every year or two, I’d find myself at an art museum, paying the entrance fee. Then, I’d speed through the exhibits, dodging clocks that melted into puddles and giant canvases covered in orange. I’d search for something safe, something familiar.

 

Finding a Rembrandt, I’d take refuge for a couple minutes—five if I was feeling artsy. Then, I’d sneak back to my car, hoping the docent at the exit wouldn’t recognize me. 

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A couple months ago, I found myself in a similar situation–this time sipping on green tea and insecurity in a friend’s apartment. I’d been riveted by a photo of Kylee’s latest painting, The Pure Look of the Bishop, and had asked (on impulse) to see it in person.


Now that the three of us, The Bishop included, were face to face, I wasn’t sure what to say:

“So…what’s the story behind it?” I ask. The Bishop’s blue and green eyes lock in on me from his chair against the wall Continue Reading…

“How much?” the pastor jolted upright in his leather chair.

“Forty-thousand dollars,” she said.

“But…” he readjusted his glasses, “…why would…that many wouldn’t even fit in the church.”

“You might be surprised how much it costs to ship the best orchids, gazanias, and cherry blossoms from Brazil, South Africa, and Japan. Specialty flowers, you know, are my business.”

“But…” the pastor’s hand, having left his glasses, hung in mid air, “why not donate that money somewhere else…the building fund…some missionaries…the homeless shelter?” 

“I want to give God something beautiful.” 

“But, they’ll just die.”

“I know.” 

He opened his mouth, but nothing came out. He closed it again. “It just seems…” He faltered.

“…like a waste?” she said. 

He cleared his throat and looked away. 

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Photo 1447279506476 3faec8071eeePhoto courtesy of Jorge Zapata via unsplash.com 

As American Christians, we’re likely to sympathize with the pastor—unless, we find the same story in Matthew 26. There we find ointment instead of flowers, disciples instead of a pastor, and a woman wanting to do something beautiful for Jesus. 


Familiarity, they say, breeds contempt, but when it comes to Bible, familiarity makes us numb to the shock of the story. A year’s wages for five minutes of worship. Hundreds of poor people that could have been fed for months. Religious onlookers who thought they knew better. How would Jesus respond Continue Reading…