Archive for January, 2015

Capturing the Imagination

“In the darkness something was happening at last.  A voice had begun to sing.  It was very far away and Digory found it hard to decide from what direction it was coming.  Sometimes it seemed to come from all directions at once.  Sometimes he almost thought it was coming out of the earth beneath them.  Its lower notes were deep enough to be the voice of the earth herself.  There were no words.  There was hardly even a tune.  But it was, beyond comparison, the most beautiful noise he had ever heard. … Then two wonders happened at the same moment.  One was that the voice was suddenly joined by other voices; more voices than you could possibly count.  They were in harmony with it, but far higher up the scale; cold, tingling, silvery voices.  The second wonder was that the blackness overhead, all at once, was blazing with stars.  They didn’t come out gently one by one, as they do on a summer evening.  One moment there had been nothing but darkness; next moment a thousand, thousand points of light leaped out – single stars, constellations, and planets, brighter and bigger than any in our world.  There were no clouds.  The new stars and the new voices began at exactly the same time.  If you had seen and heard it, as Digory did, you would have felt quite certain that it was the stars themselves who were singing, and that it was the First Voice, the deep one, which had made them appear and made them sing.”  – CS Lewis, “The Magician’s Nephew”.

Word pictures can do different things.  In the last post about Nathan’s story to David, the power of the picture was in the relationship it had with David personally.  It was designed to give David a mirror in which to see a reflection of his crime, and to play upon David’s own emotional keyboard.  It was earthy and practical.  It appealed to some of the most fundamental emotions.  And it did its job magnificently.  But not all word pictures are designed to show us something about ourselves.  Sometimes they can take us into an entirely different place, through the portal of our imaginations.

The excerpt above is from the creation of Narnia.  The humans have stumbled upon this fresh new world, just as Aslan is beginning to create it.  They watch and listen as he sings it into existence.  Here is one of my favorite pictures:

“The eastern sky changed from white to pink and from pink to gold.  The Voice rose and rose, till all the air was shaking with it.  And just as it swelled to the mightiest and most glorious sound it had yet produced, the sun arose.” 

The sun arose!  That word pictures captures me every time I read it.  I can just imagine it happening.  I know, of course, that it isn’t real.  I know that Narnia doesn’t really exist, and no lion sang any world (to our knowledge!) into being.  But it gives my spirit a push into a world of wonderment and awe.  It makes me think about what it really WAS like when our world was created.  Our God may not have sung, but He spoke.  I can almost feel the air shaking with the power and authority of His Voice.  Could the sun have burst forth like this?  How did the trees form and flowers grow?  Did they pop out of the ground and then shoot up into the air like time-lapse photography?  And what about the stars?  Scripture says they did and do sing!  Somehow I can imagine their voices as being silvery and tingly.  And even if they aren’t, it leaves me with a sense of awe to ponder it.

I may have never gotten there on my own.  The pictures that Lewis painted in his story opened the door into a new realm for my imagination.  He gave me a picture that took me out of my own world and into one with an entirely different structure.  The sense of wonderment gave me the freedom to see what I have always known from a new perspective.  His pictures opened a door for me to ponder the amazing mystery of our own Creator.  For me, this strikes a deep, deep chord.  My imagination and my spirit can go there easily because I resonate so deeply with the God who Made.

What kind of word pictures spark your imagination?  Do they take you into another place, to think of things bigger than yourself, to ponder a mystery or a marvel about the nature of God?  What kinds of pictures give you the freedom to look at the known from an entirely different view?  Wherever you find one, treasure it!



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Inside the Story

Nathan:  My lord, I have a story to tell you.
David: Say on.
Nathan:  There were two men in a town, one was very rich and the other very poor.  The rich man had great flocks of sheep.  The poor man had only one little ewe lamb.  This lamb was like a member of the family.  His kids grew up with the little lamb and played with it like it was their sister.  The poor man cared for it and let it drink out of his own cup.  They even took naps together with the lamb sleeping in his arms.  Well, one day, the rich man had a friend in town and he wanted to prepare a nice dinner.  Instead of having his servants butcher one of his own sheep to prepare for the meal, he went and stole the ewe lamb from the poor man and butchered it for their dinner.
David (furious):  As surely as there is a God in heaven, that man deserves to die!  But not before he pays four times over the value of the ewe lamb and THEN he deserves to die for his utter lack of pity!
Nathan:  That rich man was YOU.


Every time I read this passage in Scripture I think about the power of Nathan’s story.  He didn’t come to the king and say, “Listen, bud, you screwed up bad.  You coveted someone else’s wife, you killed an innocent man and committed a monumental act of injustice.”  Nathan could easily have done so.  Many times the prophets did address the kings in that straightforward manner.  And David would have listened.  But not here.  Nathan brought a finely crafted word picture to cause David to feel the full emotional weight of what he had done.

Imagine being David as he listened to the story.  I know it makes me burn every time I hear it.  My response to the rich man taking the precious and innocent treasure of the poor man is immediate anger.  Such wanton cruelty.  I can think of all kinds of interesting (and not very merciful) things that rich man deserves.  And David knew the context even better than I do.  Why?  Well, for one thing, he was a shepherd.  Given his temperament, I can only assume that he got attached to a lamb or two himself.  He knew what it cost to raise them and he could appreciate the joy the lamb brought to the family.  He was a family man too.  He could imagine only too well the grief of the poor father when his children were robbed of their playmate.  He was also a big champion of the underdog.  Who were those mighty men of his?  Drifters and outcasts, many of them.  He took them in and made something out of them.  He was always one to lift up the heads of the weak and the innocent.  The utter arrogance of the rich man must have made David fairly burn with fury.

David had gone inside of the story.  The word picture was so well crafted and so suited to his design and life experience that it drew his emotions fully into scene.  He was furious at the rich man.  There was no going back from what he was feeling, and when Nathan sprang the punch line on him, he saw his own deeds in an entirely new light.  How on earth do you continue to deny or ignore your own behavior when you have now seen it so clearly from the other side of the fence?  What do you do when you have fully condemned your own actions with your righteous reaction to the picture?

You pray a prayer like David did.

Word pictures are a powerful vehicle of truth.  When a story connects with something we know and have experienced, it can take our emotions to a place they would not go if we’d been told the concept in its own plain state.  We can relate to the picture and it sinks into a deeper place.  God is an absolute Master of word pictures.  He knows our language, our design, our experiences, our dreams, and our failures.  He knew David’s heart and what it would take to bring about a level of repentance that would become a model for humanity.

Think of the times when God has used a word picture for you.  It doesn’t have to be a rebuke like it was for David.  Many, many times God uses pictures and stories to help us see something about Himself or the way He made us.  Sometimes He uses them to instruct us.  Many of the times He has spoken to me through a picture it has been in the context of a written story.  One of my favorites is from a story called ‘The Bridge” by Jeri Massey.  There is a ballad in the story that is perfectly suited to me.  The author had no idea that it would connect with me so deeply, but God did.

When I think about this amazing facet of God’s nature, I ponder what it looks like for me.  How can I craft better word pictures for people?  What does it look like to weave together what I know about their design and experiences to engage their emotions and cause the concept to go deeper than it would have gone otherwise?

This is a topic I will continue to explore in the coming months as I look at different stories in Scripture (including this one!) and life.  We will explore some of the elements I can already see about crafting good word pictures and I look forward to discovering more.  I would be delighted for you to join me and for all of us to learn how to take this extraordinary tool to a new level in our lives.

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Getting Personal

Yesterday was a cave day.  It had been almost four weeks since I had done any writing, and I was looking forward to getting back into it again.  I don’t think I stuck my nose out of the door until after dark.

I began the day working on a chapter that was towards the end of the book.  It is a chapter where I take a step back from the individual implications of our connection to time and broaden the view to look at history.  There is a particular point in western history that stands out to me as pivotal in the way we relate to time as a culture.  But then I came across an illustration I had used that took me back to the personal level.  Well, then I got to thinking.  Maybe this illustration belonged in the first chapter, where I share my own story and how I ended up exploring this topic in the first place.  So, I abandoned world history (TEMPORARILY) and went back to the granular.

The title of Chapter One?  Disconnected.

All of the chapters have a first draft completed, but I knew there was a lot more work to be done on this one.  It couldn’t just be abstract concepts, taught in a detached manner, as if I was telling you how to hang a picture with an earthquake safe hook and cable.  I needed to tell you what I had lived and the frustration of knowing there was something missing, and having no way of knowing what it was or how to get it back.

I dug in.  With the help of a good friend who is also a writer, the chapter improved considerably throughout the day.  I did ok through most of the process, until I reached the last two sentences of the chapter.  Then I realized that my emotions were getting quite unruly.  I had not identified with my own journey quite on this level.  I have always just been driven, driven, driven to find the tools.  I needed to do some more processing myself.

And that’s the way this whole book has been.  I began writing on Christmas Day in 2013.  The lion’s share of my personal energy and time in 2014 was funneled into the writing process.  But it wasn’t just writing.  It was growing.  It was healing.  It was coming to know the God I was writing about in new and different ways.  I begin to understand even more that a creative work can be an expression of your life.  I am writing a book for you, but God is writing my story through it.

The year ahead of me fills me with anticipation for where this process will go.  Before the year is out, I hope to have a finished product!  Or, perhaps more accurately, a printed book in my hands and in yours.  This topic will only have just begun.

For the moment, though, I will pull myself back out of the world of the abstract and do something very concrete.

Build a schedule!  

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