Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Shaped by the Story

If you're looking to get your youth group involved in storied experiences of scripture, be sure to check out the upcoming "Merge" event to be held at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, MI June 27-July 2. Author and veteran youth worker Michael Novelli ("Shaped by the Story") will be guiding youth groups chronologically through biblical storying, discussion & artistic response. Think "Godly Play" for youth. Yay! Youth must come as part of a youth group with their leaders, so now's the time to start planning ahead--plus you won't want to miss out on the early bird rates. Happy storytelling!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas stories

Participants of my recent seminars on The God-Hungry Imagination were wondering what other books/stories I recommend in addition to those by C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. The list is huge, so I'll begin slowly (also you can view some of them on my website here). For starters, here are some Christmas tales written & illustrated by Native American storyteller Ray Buckley that you'll want to keep on your shelves:

The Give-Away (Abingdon Press, 1999)

Christmas Moccasins (Abingdon Press, 2003)

Beautiful, enchanting, grace-filled for the God-hungry...

Muscle memory

Recently I had two fantastic experiences leading seminars on The God-Hungry Imagination: The first was at the fall Princeton Youth Ministry Forum held at Kanuga Conference Center near Hendersonville, NC; and the second was in Vancouver, British Columbia at the "Evolve" youth ministry event run by the United Church of Canada. The locations say it all, but the people were even better. In addition to the great questions and conversations sparked by our reflections on imagination & narrative, I found my own thinking challenged and expanded in exciting ways.

For instance, if we believe that faith is embodied, and that one of the ways we learn is by enculturation in the practices of the community in order to build a kind of "muscle memory", then we must pay attention to the ways in which pain and alienation have also been embodied in the community. If someone has been judged or abused by the church, that abuse is built into their muscle memory. Receiving the bread and the cup from a pastoral figure is not a universally healing or hospitable gesture. How can we as a church be more sensitive about such things?

Food for thought...

Monday, September 7, 2009

Chesterton's "Orthodoxy"

As usual, that great man continues to astound and delight:

"The old fairy tale makes the hero a normal human boy; it is his adventures that are startling; they startle because he is normal. But in the modern psychological novel the hero is abnormal; the centre is not central. Hence the fiercest adventures fail to affect him adequately, and the book is monotonous. You can make a story out of a hero among dragons; but not out of a dragon among dragons. The fairy tale discusses what a sane man will do in a mad world. The sober realistic novel of to-day discusses what an essential lunatic will do in a dull world" (20).

"Imagination does not breed insanity. Exactly what does breed insanity is reason" (21).

"...the Greeks were right when they made Apollo the god both of imagination and of sanity; for he was both the patron of poetry and the patron of healing" (33-34).

"Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small but arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democracies object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death" (53).

"Fairyland is nothing but the sunny country of common sense" (54).

"I had always felt life first as a story: and if there is a story there is a story-teller" (60).

"Plato has told you a truth; but Plato is dead. Shakespeare has startled you with an image; but Shakespeare will not startle you with any more. But imagine what it would be to live with such men still living, to know that Plato might break out with an original lecture tomorrow, or that at any moment Shakespeare might shatter everything with a single song. The man who lives in contact with what he believes to be a living Church is a man always expecting to meet Plato or Shakespeare tomorrow at breakfast. He is always expecting to see some truth that he has never seen before" (161-162).

"Theosophists for instance will preach an obviously attractive idea like re-incarnation; but if we wait for its logical results, they are spiritual superciliousness and the cruelty of caste. For if a man is a beggar by his own pre-natal sins, people will tend to despise the beggar. But Christianity preaches an obviously unattractive idea, such as original sin; but when we wait for its results, they are pathos and brotherhood, and a thunder of laughter and pity; for only with original sin can we at once pity the beggar and distrust the king" (164).

"There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth" (168).

--All quotes from Orthodoxy, by G. K. Chesterton (Ignatius Press edition, originally published by John Lane Company, 1908).

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Reviews & Interviews

Just for summer fun, here are some links to online stuff about The God-Hungry Imagination (it's amazing what one finds on the internet when one no longer is deep in the depths of one's master's thesis!):
  • Check out this great review posted by Kris Norris on the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's blog. Now if only someone would write something like this on Amazon!
  • Frank Rogers of Claremont School of Theology quotes the book in his article "Learning and Living the Story: Religious Literacy for Youth through Narrative Imagination," published in Practical Matters Journal, Issue 1. Apparently I am representative of the "religious literacy" approach to narrative pedagogy for youth ministry (who knew?). The article is adapted from his forthcoming book Finding God in the Graffiti: Narrative Pedagogy with Young People.
  • Listen to the podcast of my interview with the Upper Room's George Donigan (scroll down the archives page till you reach "Sarah Arthur on Holy Dreaming"). It's over 30 min., so take in what you will.
  • Selected quotes on storytelling are posted on the blog of one Kevin Stilley (sounds like he's reading some great stuff).
  • And winning the prize for Most Random GHI Reference, check out this promo video on YouTube (!).

Friday, June 5, 2009

Summer Reading

You would think that now that I'm finished with graduate school I wouldn't want to see another book again for a long time, perhaps decades. But no, I'm a geek. Immediately upon turning in my thesis I wolfed down the first five novels in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, by Alexander McCall Smith. Then, upon arriving in our new digs in southeast Lansing, MI (Holt, to be precise), I attempted to establish a normal morning routine by reading a chapter per day from A Syllable of Water: Twenty Writers of Faith Reflect on Their Art, edited by Emilie Griffin. It has been fabulous. Whenever the hot air balloon of locational vertigo threatens to displace me, each chapter is another sandbag added to the basket—especially John Leax’s “Within Infinite Purposes: On Writing and Place.”

"...it is story that reveals the meaningful relationships in the square of human habitation and discourse" (16).

"We might think of [our geographical] center as home. We might also think of it as the place where we are known" (17).

"One cannot long disrespect one's neighbors and continue to live in the neighborhood" (18).

"To be placeless is to be silenced" (21).

The book reminds me why I am a writer. Many thanks to the folks at Paraclete Press for such a gem.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Holy Things

I'm now in my fourth and final semester at Duke Divinity School, taking a full course load and attempting to write my master's thesis on confirmation in the mainline church. So far I'm really enjoying a class on Liturgy & Formation with Dr. Fred Edie, Director of the Duke Youth Academy for Christian Formation (have your juniors & seniors applied yet? The deadline for DYA is this month. Don't miss out!) The reading list is fabulous, from Edie's own Book, Bath, Table, and Time: Worship as Source and Resource for Youth Ministry to Don Saliers' The Soul in Paraphrase (plus a chapter from a book on imagination by some chick named Sarah Arthur...). By far the most profound text for my own reflection has been Gordon Lathrop's Holy Things: A Liturgical Theology, which should be required reading for everyone interested in the formational potential of worship. In speaking of the parable of the yeast in the dough, he writes:

"The woman's leavened holy bread is a symbol for [the coming reign of God] in the teaching of Jesus. It then becomes clear that, according to this word of Jesus, the place of the preparation of the holy bread, the people involved in this meeting with God, and the very place of the epiphany of God are all different than expected. But the bread is still bread for a festival, for a meeting with God. The struture of expectation found in the old grain stories remains the same. Also the teaching of Jesus expresses the longing for the face of God, for the true holy place of God, for the good bread, and for the holy festival. Ritual order, while criticized, provides the vocabulary for the proclamation of the gospel. Time and again this is the pattern of biblical speech: old structures are used to speak the new grace. The single sentence of our parable reveals the deep biblical pattern" (26).