763. The Prophetic Imagination

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A few nights ago I was talking with some writer friends about our respective works in progress, and I mentioned that one of the sections in my hope manuscript draws on Walter Brueggemann’s writing in his books The Poetic Imagination and Reality, Grief, Hope. One of the friends told me that she had recently listened to Brueggemann being interviewed on the radio program “On Being” and sent me the link (“Walter Brueggemann: The Prophetic Imagination”). I listened to it while taking a walk a couple mornings later and again just this afternoon. Although recorded in 2011, and re-aired last December, the content is just as relevant today. I encourage you to listen as there is much wonderful wisdom here on hope, the use of metaphor and poetry in understanding God, and the mercy of God.

Here’s a small section:

The other text I’ll read is Isaiah 43. It’s a very much-used passage. “Do not remember the former things nor consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” And apparently, what he’s telling his people is just forget about the Exodus, forget about all the ancient miracles, and pay attention to the new miracles of rebirth and new creation that God is enacting before your very eyes. I often wonder when I read that, what was it like the day the poet got those words? What did it feel like, and how did he share that? Of course, we don’t know any of that, so it just keeps ringing in our ears.

I first read Brueggemann when I was at St. John’s Abbey Guest House in Collegeville, Minnesota (6 years ago?). I was in the library writing when a book on the shelf, The Prophetic Imagination, caught my eye. I took it down and read it nearly nonstop over the next day or so. I hope you’ll take a listen.

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[Photo: taken on the Detroit River Walk in Detroit, where we were for a wedding several weeks ago.]

706. Revisiting the mystery at the table - and the desk

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Nearly 7 years ago I bought the icon known as The Holy Trinity, or The Trinity, by Andrei Rublev, brought it home, and hung it above my desk where I could see it every day. Honestly though, over time, I have tended to forget to look at it even though it's right in front of me as I work. After all, there are papers to read and chapters to write and slides to edit. This morning I'm re-reminding myself to look at it, to think about it. So in that spirit, I'm sharing the blog post I wrote just days after I purchased it in February 2010.

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Last weekend I went with a friend to a bookstore in St. Paul that was closing. A bookstore closing is always a sad affair, yet the owner seemed in good spirits and prices were slashed so joy was still to be had. I bought a few books and an icon wall hanging. Since hearing Dr. Roy Robson from the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia speak at The Museum of Russian Art a couple years ago, I've had my eye out for a copy of the Holy Trinity icon by Andrei Rublev, which reflects the story of Abraham's hospitality from Genesis 18. Robson showed a slide of this icon, with three figures seated at a round table. Two of the three figures were robed in brilliant blue. It was so beautiful I could hardly stop looking. The figures represent the Trinity, as its name suggests, and they are seated at the nine, twelve, and three o'clock positions. Left open is the 6 o'clock position. As Robson said, it invites you to "contemplate sitting at the table with the Trinity." I like that sense of invitation and so for that reason I'll hang it near my work space where I can see it.

I want it where I can see it for another reason as well, particularly while I write. In Mind of the Maker, written in 1941, Dorothy L. Sayers examines in great detail the analogic association between the Divine Creator and the human creative process through the doctrine of the Trinity. The ideal literary artist composes his or her works in the image of the three-fold mind comprised of the co-equal and co-substantial Idea, Energy, and Power.

The Idea—or the Father—is the “Book-as-Thought” in the writer’s mind irrespective of any words actually written. The thought precedes the actual activity or material production of the work, but continues on eternally after the work is written and read. The work “is known to the writer as …a complete and timeless whole."

The Energy—or the Son—which “brings about an expression in temporal form of the eternal and immutable Idea,” is the “Book-as-Written." It is the creation that the writer or a reader can witness either as the material form of the work or as the passion and toil of the writer.

The Power—or the Spirit—emerges from the Idea and the Energy. This is the “Book-as-Read” and is the “means by which the [Energy] is communicated to other readers and which produces a corresponding response in them.”

To the writer, the Idea, the Energy, and the Power “are equally and eternally present in his own act of creation…they exist in—they are—thecreative mind itself." To ignore this co-equal and co-substantial pattern of the ideal creative mind, Sayers argued, is to invite failure to a literary work.

Much to think about and be reminded of for 50% off.

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690. The life-changing magic of insignificant things

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Years ago, decades ago, a very little thing changed my life. Sometimes it's worth going back and thinking about this kind of thing. Small, hardly noticeable, seemingly insignificant events, images, conversations, dreams, words, [fill in the blank] that mark a fork in the road that you didn't even realize you were taking. As it happened, I went on a retreat. I’m not really a group-retreat-type person, but for some reason I wanted to go because I had this feeling it would change my life. I can't explain the feeling, but it was there, like a little whisper inside. So I went, but when the weekend was over, I was disappointed. I thought back over all the speakers had said, and it was all good, but for me, not life-changing. No life-changing blast from any direction. What had I been thinking; what had I expected? I felt silly for expecting anything. And so life went on. Time passed, lots and lots of time, years, and from a distance I finally saw the thing that had changed, and why that one thing had in turn changed my life. My roommate at the retreat, a random placement, someone I hadn't known, journaled. I didn't, but after observing her writing regularly in her notebook, I tried it too that weekend. And there it was. The start of a writing practice that would take me on a path I hadn't imagined. I wonder how guidance really works, how many chances we get, what combination of love and grace and knowledge of the inner way of a person is rolled into these kinds of subtle, divine nudges. I don't want to miss a single nudge but fear that I do.

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[Photo: taken of the sky on the last leg of our road trip home from Michigan last week - the only time the faintest whisper of clouds appeared the entire 7 days we were away.]