The Imaginer Prophets

Thus every totalitarian regime is frightened of the artist. It is the vocation of the prophet to keep alive the ministry of imagination, to keep on conjuring and proposing futures alternative to the single one the king wants to urge as the only thinkable one’.

Here, amidst these sentences, is where my hope and heart dwell. Like truth, layered with truth, so many of Brueggemann’s statements unleashed a great sense of hope and possibility in me.

I can’t sing. I can play an instrument. I can’t paint. I can’t dance.

But I can hear the whispers of the Kingdom build as I put pen to paper and finger to keyboard.

I have felt the suffocation of years of good theology gone bad. Do good. Be good. Don’t ask questions; seek only the answers found in Scripture. Sit and soak.  Well intended sermons confirming my right to consume my Christianity rather than participate with it.  And all the while secretly hoping that God was to be found in the lonely places, the wide open spaces, the quiet moments and the broken hearts.

The Christianity presented to me was nicely boxed, wrapped with ribbon and bows. A glittering present to be adored and treasured, kept safe and nurtured. And while there is no doubt that salvation is an undeserved gift, it is also essential that we resolve to make salvation the beginning of a journey that requires our hands and feet, our hearts and minds.

The church in all its good intention has mimicked this cultures consumerism and passivity – at the sake of the artists, the poets, the imaginers’.

The ones that don’t quite fit.

The ones that don’t see the world in black and white or even greys.

The ones who see the Kingdom sneaking in on the edge of their paint brushes, at the sweep of their hands, at the smell of their cooking.

These are the ones who will point us in the direction of a deeper, freer, sweeter life.

They are the ones who will pull us away from this frail, fickle attempt at life and of this future rooted in apathy.  They are the ones who will hold our hands and take us to the outer regions. The places where the poor and broken dwell.

The ministry of imagination sits directly opposite, but not in opposition, to my years of studying systematic theology.  They go hand in hand. As Brueggemann so beautifully demonstrated.  The church needs the good theology of imaginers and prophets to lead us to those lonely, desolate places that crave colour and light and life.  At the intersection where amazement joins forces with pragmatism; that is where I want to live.  Brueggmann has infused me with hope and possibility. I am so grateful for his words. And while we get ready for the imaginer prophets to raise their staffs and declare the freedom of the Living God I will dare to imagine that words, written in hurried, hushed moments will begin to dissolve the empire of consumerism and passivity. And I will dare to believe that good theology will be found in the poet’s voice and the painter’s stroke. And I will dare to claim that in the activity of creating and imagining, the Kingdom will come.

(This post is apart of the Reading in Transit Book Club. It is linked up here. Please go and check out other amazing, heart felt responses to Walter Brueggemann’s ‘The Prophetic Imagination’. There are some great conversations to be had!)

 

 

words of grace and beauty

index

As an exercise in deciphering ‘my voice’ and what influences me, I have been thinking about my favourite books and writers.  It is a curious thing to sit down and explore why you are attracted to particular books and authors. It is awfully revealing.

I tend to have an ever rotating list of ‘5 favourite books’. There is never just one all time, overshadowing favourite (‘The Secret History’ is coming close though, it has been in my ‘top 5’ list for the last 5 years).  So my current top 5 books are as follows:

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (East of Eden is also BRILLIANT)

The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, Vol 2

Dialogues with Silence, Thomas Merton

Revolutionary Road, by Richard Yates

Honourable mention (as I take it off my shelf on such a regular basis and refer to it so often), Beyond Words by Fredrick Buechner.

 

Favourite authors are easier for me to identify, John Steinbeck, Mary Oliver, and Thomas Merton are all high on the list. As are Ruth Jones and James Corden who wrote the TV series ‘Gavin and Stacey’. Ernest Hemingway, Robert Graves and Leo Tolsty, they all rate highly too.

I like writers who discuss the shadows and the light, who see beauty in the everyday and acknowledge that life is complicated and layered but it can also be tedious. They use words well and with grace and effect.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, The Lighthouse by Alison Moore, Stasiland by Anna Funder and The Stories of John Cheever all do this – they are gritty, unswerving in their honesty and at times devastating. They explore moments which are wrapped in lightness and bathed in heartache.

I love themes of beauty and truth found in dark and hard places.

I appreciate good words, used well, but simply.

I’m not sure how this currently effects what or how I write. But it does ring true that I desire that same kind of simplicity and grace with words that these writers have. I want to translate life into words that people resonate with and recgonise. I want truth and beauty to chase away the dull and ordinary.

Here is some of what I have to live up to! –

‘All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.’ Ernest Hemingway

‘There’s more beauty in truth, even if it is dreadful beauty.’ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

‘Beauty is rarely soft or consolatory. Quite the contrary. Genuine beauty is always quite alarming.’ Donna Tartt, The Secret History

‘There is nothing wrong with the love of Beauty. But Beauty – unless she is wed to something more meaningful – is always superficial’. Donna Tartt, The Secret History

‘Listen–are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?’ Mary Oliver

Holy Week

Holy Week.

Quiet week.

 

The holiest of days.

The days that mark the path You walked towards the greatest moment of mercy.

All is sharper this week. The sky is bluer, the rain sweeter, the air purer.

This week of remembering The Great Ransom.

Ransomed for our memories. Memories of pain, sadness, emptiness, shame and sin. We await the gift which wipes these shadows from our minds and hearts.

We anticipate the day when we will be gifted with forgetfulness.

 

Worth reading this week…

Micha Boyett at ‘Mama: Monk‘ has a week of reflections which are worth spending some time with.

Sarah Bessey has written a beautiful post, ‘In which we leave a little room‘. (You will also find in Sarah’s post the line, ‘And I think we need more theologians with a poet’s heart: a little imagination when we speak of God never hurts‘. Oh how this made my heart sing!)