A Christmas Carol and the Power of Art

Art has the ability to inspire us and captivate our imaginations like nothing else can. You experience this when seeing a particularly powerful film, where the story and characters take you to a different emotional place. Whether viewing a classic like Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life or a current movie such as Martin Scorsese’s Silence, you are affected viscerally in a way only art can prompt. A painting can be transcendent as well. Henri Nouwen was so moved by Rembrandt’s visual interpretation of The Return of the Prodigal Son that he wrote a book based on the impressions he saw in the work.

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The Stories We Tell

Everyone has a story to tell. The experiences we go through lay down pavement in our rearview mirror of life, leaving a path of where we’ve been behind us. Each step taken reveals a corner turned, a decision made, a chapters ending or one beginning. We are all on the move towards something, whether our steps are that of a baby or a marathoners sprint. But do we really know where we’re headed? I often feel as if I’ve journeying through my life in the dark.

Growing up as a church kid, attending Sunday school and memorizing Bible verses to be quoted in the front of the congregation (not awkward at all by the way), I have Jeremiah 29:11 practically branded onto my brain.

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Reclaiming Story for Christ?

As I have written before, in our modern Western culture we suffer from a disconnect between Reason and Imagination. Story, when it is rightly used in the service of Truth, can help to connect these two necessary elements into a healthy, God-focused whole.

However, reclaiming Story for the cause of Truth means more than just slapping a Christian label on the idea of storytelling. We must be clear about what Story is and how it relates to Truth.

Portions of the Christian church have wholeheartedly affirmed a postmodern understanding of Story. In this view, Christians have a wonderful story, one that brings meaning and joy and purpose to those who accept it, but it is a story that makes no claims about objective reality and objective Truth.

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Why Story Matters

Why do stories matter?

Ultimately, because of who we are - made in the image of God. Human beings possess the twin faculties of Reason and Imagination, both God-given, both essential for a right relationship with the world (and for a right understanding of one’s place in the world).

However, something has gone badly wrong in our culture. In a slow process that began with the Enlightenment and has continued to the present day, these faculties of Reason and Imagination have been separated, to the detriment of both.

On the one hand, Reason has been given free rein, and the pursuit of knowledge using our God-given intellect has become scientism and materialism, the idea that only those things that can be empirically measured and logically figured out can be considered “true” or “real.” In the world of science, truth is held to be only that which is measurable and testable. Intangible things like emotions and spiritual truths are decidedly second-class citizens. After all, souls can’t be detected with an MRI, and love can’t be weighed and measured!

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Saving America's Story

Republicans seem to have no cohesive narrative and this seems obvious. Democrats are losing their cohesive narrative and again, this is almost a no-brainer. To anyone who is watching the news or paying attention to the rhetoric floating over the internet and across television screens, it’s rather difficult to understand what narrative thread will actually unify our country. Let me suggest that it’s because the new narrative thread isn’t one of unity, but one of division.

We must pause, though, prior to jumping into the 21st century to consider the unifying narratives that have characterized our country and in fact, these narratives have come to form the core values of the United States. We pause to review the overarching stories, not for nostalgia’s sake, but because in a real sense, we’re in danger of losing them.

Fighting Indifference, pt. 1


“The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them,”

George Bernard Shaw


 

 

The gunman stood at the window looking out over the crowded streets below. Bobby paused from typing and surveyed the situation. Could he make a break for the door? What happens if he refuses to type? Maybe, he would simply charge and tackle the man, sending him crashing through the window to the street below. Something akin to an action hero would certainly do the trick. Then again, there was that gun. Knives are considered rather personal, guns seems so cold and impersonal. A sniper can shoot a complete stranger from a great distance and still remain seated at that great distance. Stabbings, though, happen at close range amongst people who can know each other. Guns seem to prevent struggles. In that case, so do bombs, missiles, torpedoes, and nuclear weapons. When a rather large bomb is dropped, there is nothing really personal about it; it simply means that people will die. We have simply become too efficient at hurting each other.

“You want out of here, don’t you?” said the gunman.
 
“Yes, sir, I do.”
 
Neither man moved and to Bobby’s surprise, the gunman never even looked over at him.

Meet Yves

While I sleep at night, a war rages on in Congo. When I rise from my desk at work to grab a drink of water, men, women and children are thirsty in Congo. While I sit in traffic on my daily commute, Congolese children sit and wait in hiding, hoping the merciless rebels pass them by. 

Congo is special to me. I was in the country in 2003. I met the locals. I ate the food. I poorly attemped to speak the language. I met beautiful children. Congo is in great need. The Congolese have suffered for generations. It's time for the country called "the heart of darkness" to experience the light of Christ. 

An organization called Fallen Whistles is working hard to help those of not in Congo not forget the world's most deadliest and violent war going on right now in Eastern Congo. Stories are a powerful tool in bridging the gap between the not so personal and the personal. Congo and the Congolese people are worth becoming personal. Their lives are too valuable for the world to continue to turn away to such devastation. 

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Catalyst Comes to a Close

What do you get when you bring together gum walls, skinny jeans, confetti, creepy mustache's on twenty-something’s, poetry, comedy, rock music, hipsters, rap music, any and all music really, Tenley from last seasons The Bachelor, time travel, 6 roach coaches and powerful speakers like Eugene Cho, Kay Warren, Mark Driscoll, Wes Stafford and Donald Miller, just to name a few?

Catalyst West Coast.

The two-day leadership conference came to a close yesterday afternoon as Andy Stanley taught leadership to the 3400 leaders present. He made comment like, "As leaders, you should be making as few decisions as possible" and "Only do what you can do." He also said "Leadership is about getting things done through other people."

Earlier in the day, Wess Stafford of Compassion International said, "I'm convinced the prayer of a child in poverty or in abuse is the most powerful force." Just before making that statement, he said something that really struck me. He said, "We may not be committing the sin of endangering a child, but we are committing the sin of omission by allowing a child to be endangered."

Erwin McManus talked about how Solomon got it wrong when he said "there is nothing new under the sun." Erwin said "God created us for originality; not just effectiveness. Everything God does is new. He is constantly creating the new. Only in the new do we find the beautiful. Live lives of story and meaning and create new beauty."

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The Legacy of Storytellers: Quiet Leaders of Every Generation

(here is part 4 of 5 on leadership in an interconnected world. This particular post is an excerpt of a longer study I have done on storytellers as heroes and the ones who shape our identity and ideals)

In a world increasingly interconnected by visual media and web technology, emerging personalities and heroic personas will often arise in the midst of stories told that withstand the test of time. We are saturated with information, what remains in our minds amidst the onslaught of email, web pages, scrolling television updates, film clips, and advertisements will be personas that we not only resonate with, but who reveals the longings deep within that shape us all. Understanding that “in a world of networks, individuals, companies, communities, consumers, activist groups, and governments all have the power to be shapers,”[1] two artists have emerged above the rest in the cinema and theatre respectively. William Shakespeare continues to be the standard by which theatre is judged hundreds of years after his death, while the films of Steven Spielberg have so captivated our culture, that he is the single biggest money making filmmaker in history. The pervasive use of English as an international language has not only served to disseminate the works of each artist, but also helped each to shape the way people see the world.

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Chesterton Keeps Me From Going Crazy

A business consultant once told me about 'crazymaking' cultures. She observed several corporations that posted their vision and mission on the wall, but it had little do with daily life in the company. People were rallied around things at the big sales meetings and management retreats that simply had nothing to do with the true day to day operations. What this leads to is a 'crazymaking' culture. Sometimes I feel like I am completely losing my mind as I listen to various 'pep rallies' around certain camps or issues. Maybe we live in a 'crazymaking' culture all the time?

Chesterton rescues me when he writes in his book The Everlasting Man that: "the sanity of the world was restored and the soul of man offered salvation by something which indeed satisfy the two warring tendencies of the past; which had never been satisfied in full and most certainly never satisfied together. It met the mythological search for romance by being a story and the philosophical search for truth by being a true story...." 

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