Saturday, July 4, 2009

Reflections on Stories

I'm going to rephrase this whole question:

A few weeks ago I fell into a hole. It was a hole called Hulu (note the phonetic resonance between the two words). While Cindy was off retreating with many of the women from our church, I stayed up until two-thirty Saturday night (er. . . . Sunday morning) watching nearly all the first season of Arrested Development.

Arrested Development is a witty show, and I'm sad that it didn't get the ratings for Fox to keep it on air. It's textured, layered, multi-referential. Plus Ron Howard is the narrator. (The Oracle tells me that Arrested Development has been off the air for a few years--I don't really keep up with TV.)

Cindy got home that Sunday afternoon, and we've pounded out the second and third season during wild binges of TV watching during the last two or three weeks. End of story.

Well, not really. Another recent development: I spend a half hour or so sitting out on our fire escape, watching my little box of herbs and tomatoes and peppers grow, watching the birds that nervously nest in a crack in the brick in over our back stairs, watching the sky. I listen to the neighbors' air conditioners, to the quick voices of their children and the rise and fall of married couples screaming at one another. Sometimes I even talk to our next door neighbor as she waters her fire escape garden.

I try to pray while I sit there. At least I try to quiet down and listen for the Spirit's voice. And this is what I've been hearing: Arrested Development, Terry Pratchett novels, my own unfolding projects, dreams about what Cindy and I will do next. This is what I haven't been hearing: God's voice.

I am caught in so many stories, so many hopes and concerns competing for a piece of my attention, so many pieces already claimed by television or private dreams. God doesn't fill up my mind, my senses, because I've crowded him out with so many cheap thrills.

See, God has a story. Jesus has a story, a kingdom story. But instead of plunging my imagination into the yet unfolding drama of Jesus' resurrection life overcoming the weight of history, I check out pulp fiction from the library, stream reruns via Hulu, repeatedly check my Google Reader, and fidget with my iTunes.

So here's the question from last post (yes, I do really want answers): When and where and from whom have you heard kingdom stories that invade your imagination?

My list would include Tom and Christine Sine at Common Root '09. Check the video I posted a few months back of their presentation. I'm also a big fan of Tom's book The New Conspirators. The Sine's tell stories of God's kingdom come, tangible as sign and foretaste of the promise for God's life to overcome the world.

Who's on your list?


  1. I just finished reading Seeing by Jose Saramago; that is a book for exciting the imagination. Re-reading Ecclesiates and the Missio Dei Breviary have made for meditative moments. Similarly, reading Non-Violence was envigorating, and the new mewithoutYou album has songs I sing to my daughter. Neil Gaiman's children's poem, Blueberry Girl, has been a boon to me, and studying Fyodor Dostoevsky has taught me much.

    There have been films/tv that have spoken to me in those ways, but lately it's mostly been counter-examples.

  2. I also feel very story-saturated. The past few weeks have been for me a meditation on the line from T.S. Eliot "Distracted from distraction by distraction." (and, hilariously, I just flipped open my copy of the complete poems and plays to look for the quote and it fell open to exactly the right page in Four Quartets, "Burnt Norton," part III)

    Over the past few years, I've been reminded of the importance of Sunday morning worship to re-tell the story every single week, in liturgy, in sacrament, in song, in meditative preaching that does not teach as much as it just listens to the story. I've had more moments of powerful creative inspiration (story ideas, sermon notes by drawing) in Sunday services in the past few years than anywhere else. It's a strange and new experience to the verbal/rational me...


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