Tag Archives: Wonder

Faith, Faery, and The Artist’s Way

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.
Matthew 11:25 (NIV)

Many years ago I picked up a book called The Artist’s Way and embarked on its path. The Artist’s Way is a course designed to help anyone tap into spiritual, creative flow. It was a life-changing journey for me, and God is still leading me back to its principles over and over again.

There are two foundational activities required of pilgrims on The Artist’s Way. The first is called morning pages, and it’s the simple act of waking each morning, immediately sitting down and writing three pages, long hand, stream-of-consciousness. Morning pages help empty the mind and spirit of all the crud that we didn’t even realize were gumming up the works. The second required activity is called the artist’s date. It is quite simply letting your adult self recapture the act of playing; Giving yourself permission to indulge, explore, imagine, touch, smell, taste, and see whatever it is your spirit finds fascinating. As the morning pages make way for fresh flow, the artist’s date begins to “fill the well.” It is a simple two-step process. And, it works.

This morning I was reminded of The Artist’s Way as I read the chapter. Jesus reminded His listeners that the things of God are hidden from the “wise and learned,” their minds gummed up with important things; Their spirits shriveled and sucked dry by the urgent cares and anxieties of the world. The things of God are revealed to children and to the child-like spirits whose minds are open and tapped into God’s flow, their willing hearts open to the wonders of faith.

I’m also reminded that the learned and wise C.S. Lewis first experienced what Jesus was talking about one day after a walk and conversation with his friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien. What was the subject of the conversation that led to Lewis’ conversion to Christianity? Tolkien’s belief that Faery stories are “real.”

The Wonder of Creation

I snapped this photo of a deer feeding at the spring at Ha Ha Tonka State Park.
I snapped this photo of a deer feeding at the spring at Ha Ha Tonka State Park.

You make springs pour water into the ravines, 
so streams gush down from the mountains.
They provide water for all the animals….
Psalm 104:10-11a (NLT)

This past weekend was spent at the lake with our friends Mat and Anne and their daughter Madeline. On Saturday we jumped in the boat and took a long cruise to Ha Ha Tonka State Park. A gorgeous nature trail along the water wound back towards a natural spring that continuously pours out from under a large cliff to feed the river. All along the water’s edge we saw wildlife. Turtles were there in abundance sunning themselves on logs. We saw muskrat swimming and feeding. A young deer had somehow made it down a steep embankment to feed in the clear stream. Mat pointed out all sorts of creepy crawlies to Madeline like millipedes and snails.

How ironic that this morning’s psalm is all about the beauty of God’s creation. It couldn’t be a more appropriate epilogue to our weekend. Our time at the park reminded me of the wonder of God’s creation. I’m also reminded of Paul’s words to the Jesus followers in Rome:

For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.

This morning I’m thankful for the opportunity to commune with God and with our friends in the midst of His creation. My soul is refreshed as I enter the week.

Day 23: Something You Always Say “What if…” About

30 Day Blogging Challenge Day 23: Something you always say “What if…” about.

What if I’d been born in a different part of the world, in a different time of history, in a different culture? What would my life be like?

Perhaps I ask the question because I love history, or perhaps I love history because I’m always asking the question. There’s a chicken and egg thing going on there. I feel so blessed to have been born in the United States, in Iowa, in the 20th century. So much of the blessing I’ve experienced in life, which I so often take for granted, is simply because of where and when I was born.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 22

Jim Broadbent as the adult Digory Kirke in The...
Image via Wikipedia

The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your trusty donkey on whom you’ve ridden for years right up until now? Have I ever done anything like this to you before? Have I?” Numbers 22:30 (MSG)

C.S. Lewis’ classic tale, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, has always been one of my favorites. There is a scene early in the story when Lucy’s elder siblings, Peter and Susan, are convinced that their sister is lying to them about her mysterious trips through the wardrobe into the magical land of Narnia. At their wit’s end, they have a conversation with the Professor about their sister’s odd behavior. To their amazement, he decides that their sister is telling the truth.

“Logic!” said the Professor half to himself. “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn’t tell lies and it is obvious she isn’t mad. For the moment then, and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth.”

The children come to learn that the Professor was correct. They refused to accept their sister’s story because it didn’t fit inside their comfortable definition of reality.

Along the journey, I’ve come to realize that we often place God in a box in our minds. It’s a neat little box. It’s dimensions are those which we define based on our comfort level and our experience in the journey. The problem is that an infinite, omniscient and omnipotent God never seems to consistently fit neatly inside a box we create in our finite minds and limited experience.

In today’s chapter, we learn that God had made himself known to a man named Balaam. Balaam was not one of “God’s people.” He was not one of the Israelites coming up out of Egypt. Nevertheless, it is clear that God had revealed Himself to Balaam and used Balaam (and Balaam’s donkey) to accomplish His purpose. 

Balaam stands as a reminder to me that God can work in and through whomever He wishes in order to accomplish His purpose. The way God works, and those through whom He chooses to accomplish His will, do not always fit within my comfortable definition. Like Susan and Peter, I am constantly finding that my faith and wonder must expand as God reveals Himself to be and to act in ways that are exceeding, abundantly beyond all that I can think or imagine.

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Chapter-a-Day Matthew 6

wide eyed
Image by massdistraction via Flickr

“Your eyes are windows into your body. If you open your eyes wide in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. If you pull the blinds on your windows, what a dark life you will have!” Matthew 6:22-23 (MSG)

One of the things that I love about my wife is the way we both enjoy seeing, experiencing and living with wide eyed wonder. The other week we went to the opera. It was not something I foresee us doing on a regular basis, but we were both awed by the experience which was unique for both of us. We sat in wide-eyed wonder at the entire experience, and then enjoyed sharing our wonder and the lessons learned.

Over this past weekend we watched two fascinating movies. One produced a wonderful conversation about reality and dreams. The other prompted an interesting conversation about, and appreciation for, community.

I don’t understand squinty-eyed living. God is so vast. His works are so infinite. Each day’s journey can be a glorious, wide-eyed exploration of Life that produces light, knowledge, wisdom, understanding and love in increasing measure.

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Chapter-a-Day Luke 11

“No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer. It’s put on a lamp stand so those entering the room have light to see where they’re going. Your eye is a lamp, lighting up your whole body. If you live wide-eyed in wonder and belief, your body fills up with light. If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar. Keep your eyes open, your lamp burning, so you don’t get musty and murky. Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room.” Luke 11:33-36 (MSG)

This week I am a grown adult playing a child’s game of dress up and make-believe. Having shaved my head, I will put on a costume and pretend I am a wealthy, 20th century industrialist living on 5th Avenue in New York City. I am quite certain that some people think I’m silly, but for me it is about living wide-eyed in wonder and belief.

While I enjoy the stage for the fun and camaraderie, it is more than just an amusement to me. Acting helps me maintain a child-like wonder and playfulness about life. As I research a character I am digging deeper into the human condition, gaining greater empathy for others, and acquiring a more thorough understanding of my own humanity. In Oliver Warbucks I’ve learned a little more about greed, lonliness, isolation, loss, drive, and ambition. Most of all, Oliver has spoken to me about redemption. Warbucks is the incarnation of Jesus’ teaching about gaining the whole world at the risk of losing your own soul. The two and a half hours of Annie has become, for me, the story of Oliver’s journey from the darkness of isolation to the light of love. That story is simply a reflection of the great story, of God’s story, of the Christmas story.

In two weeks the show will be over, but I know from experience that these few months of wide-eyed wonder and the willing suspension of disbelief will have made my own life a little less murky.

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Chapter-a-Day Judges 13

Sheer wonder. The angel of God said, "What's this? You ask for my name? You wouldn't understand—it's sheer wonder." Judges 13:18 (MSG)

There is so much about God which I don't comprehend. There are so many things I don't understand about His ways. I am befuddled. I'm so desperately frustrated with His silence and disappointed when my heart's desire is perpendicular to His Truth. I try to define Him. I try to wrap my finite mental boundaries around Him. I try to reduce Him into containable thought which will fit neatly and comfortably in the cultural, intellectual and emotional box I've created for Him. But, He never quite fits inside the box. It always ends up being both messy and uncomfortable for me.

Even His name defies reduction into our human language. It can't be contained in the limited letters, syllables and words of our most exhaustive dictionary. I reach to grasp for it, and find that it's always a little further up and further in. I sometimes touch it, but never quite grasp hold of it.

Today, I'm reminded of my need to sit in wonder and be content.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and wisdoc