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Receptivity to the Impossible

tightrope3Our faith is all about being open to what isn’t logical nor isn’t predictable.  I mean – really – that is what all our holy days celebrate, right?  I really liked this article written by Melissa Musick Nussbaum.  She pushes us to make connections from our daily life to a perspective of faith, which can be hard to do when we are in the middle of living!  I hope you will like this perspective, too.

bibleYou may have read the spate of articles about “Judgments about fact and fiction by children from Religious and Non-religious backgrounds,” a study published in the July issue of Cognitive Science.

My favorite comment was from BBC News with this portentous lead, “If you expose your children to Moses, Muhammad, or Matthew the Apostle, are they at a disadvantage?”

healing the peopleSixty-six kindergartener from both public and parochial schools in the Boston area were chosen for the study. The children were represented with three kinds of stories – religious, fantastical, and realistic, in the words of the study – and asked to differentiate between fact and fiction. The first curious assumption is that fact equals “realistic,” which equals “true,” while fiction equals “religious or fantastical,” which equals “false.”

By facts, of course, the researchers often mean what we can see and touch and measure. It’s what we have come to call “science,” as divorced from imagination or philosophy – or theology.

burning bushScience, we think, is untouched by personal experiences or cultural norms or political affiliation or peer pressure. It is “objective,” which, if I might be so bold, is a “fantastical” notion if ever there was. The belief, and belief it is, that if we can examine something under a microscope, it is fact. If we can only imagine it, it is fiction, and therefore, suspect and relegated to the world of fairy tales.

motherboardEven though much of what we now include in the realm of facts (flying machines and thin wires conveying sounds and images across time and space and men not in, but on, the moon) began in the realm of the fantastical.

Even though what was once held as fact, namely that people of certain races and continents were born to be owned by people of the other races living on other continents, was overturned by people fed on and formed by religious stories. Like the 18th-century English Rev. John Newton, a former slave trader turned fervent Christian, who preached against the slave trade and slavery and understood his own awakening to its horrors to be the direct result of what he read in the Bible. He could ascribe the change only to divine intervention, a miracle of God’s “amazing grace that saved a wretch like me.”

resurrectionNewton’s fervor; based in what the researchers in the study call “religious stories,” or fiction, would, they argue in the effects of such stories on children, lead to a “more generic receptivity toward the impossible, that is a more wide-ranging acceptance that the impossible can happen in defiance of ordinary casual regularities.”

For which, we fervently pray.

May there be a “more generic receptivity toward the impossible,” that men and women might return good for evil and forgiveness for hate “in defiance of ordinary causal regularities.”

May “ordinary causal regularities” roll away the stone from Jesus’ tomb, as the lowly are lifted up and the hungry filled with good things.

It was GK Chesterton who made the best and boldest defense of fairy tales, of the fantastical, when he wrote:

Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist.
Children already know that dragons exist.
Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.

grandmaSo if you want me, I’ll be where I’ve been for most of the past 40 years, telling children stories: of a bush that burns but is not consumed, and of seas that part so the slaves can cross over to freedom, and of a hungry lion whose mouth was shut by the hand of God. I’ll be telling them about a baby born beneath the brightest star that ever shone and about animals that, on that night, could talk. I’ll be telling them about water turned to wine and hate turned into love and death turned into life.

And they will be rapt, these children who know there are dragons, joining me in glorious “receptivity of the impossible,” that, one day, the dragons may be slain.


Ali Babba’s Treasure…or something more…

I love to read…but you already know that.  I have to admit that when I was young, I did not aspire to be a nurse or a doctor.  I always dreamt of being a pirate or a brilliant detective or Tonto’s sidekick.

imaginationAll of my dreams were linked to my wonderful imagination.

I could see myself hanging onto the rigging of the ship that I sailed with my shipmates – forget taking baths, pirates have the sea spray in their face! The treasure I’d find was also exciting, whether I’d find it as Bluebeard, Ali Babba, or Nancy Drew.

Who were your childhood heroes?

It is SO good to remember that when we were younger we aspired to things that may not have really been practical, realistic, or even possible!  reach for the sky

We didn’t just reach for the sky…we reached the sky!

We get so sensible – cynical? – as adults. We filter the dream from the concrete reality and so…more often than not…we stop dreaming all together.

Somewhere along the line, you may have been told to snap out of it…to get real…to grow up.

That Ali Babba’s treasure existed only in your dreams.treasure chest3

Yet – isn’t there great value in  remembering the dreams; the joyful yearning of your hopeful heart?

Scripture tells us to be like little children again – and reaching for the sky was one of our best attributes.

So – what is there to lose today by shedding some of the cynicism we have begun to wear like a cloak – that doesn’t really define you, does it? – and embracing the young person we once were? hero

What could you do to rekindle the sparkle of hope in the next 24 hours…and well, have fun with what life dishes you?

Perhaps there really is a treasure in your life that you have overlooked…or, perhaps, the treasure is God, the one who never lost sight of the joyful, hopeful person you are and can help you remember once again to believe in buried treasure…

Imagination and the Will of God

It has been written that as members of a long-developing Western society, Americans have, for the most part, lost their imagination for God.  There are layers to reality that could be explored and mulled over that we no longer have time for.  For many people, today, the only reality is the concrete one directly involved with their day-to-day…nothing more, nothing less.  No mystery – simply evidence and facts. 

The ancients found it easier to unpack the mysteries of why things occur and what those realities might symbolize.  They could find God –  lift their minds to God – in the pauses between work and recreation much more readily than we, of this era, do.

The toughest part of this reality is that if we have lost our imagination for God, how do we find the God that we cannot imagine?  

How can a God we cannot imagine have any lasting role in our lives or inspire our interaction with others?

Jesus’ example is clear.  Love your neighbor as yourself.  Give the shirt off of your back and walk a mile in their shoes.  Change your own life to make room for the lives of others.  God’s will is that we care for one another as family… that we reflect the heart of God in every outreach we make.  This kind of behavior resonates with someone who calls themselves Christian.

Will Wonder Play a Role?

It’s time to hone your imagination skills – your imagination-for-God skills.   A sense of wonder reveals an openness to what else God might have in store! This calls for some quiet time in your life.  Time which will actually allow you to hear what God is whispering in your heart. 

When you sit in the quiet – pondering the God that defies description – keep your heart, ears, and eyes open for what God will reveal of the rich layers of  your life.  With new ears listen to what invitation God places before you!


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