It's been hot and humid-- the kind of days in which you seem constantly to be...there's just no other way to say it: salty! Good training for the mission field, I keep telling myself. It's nice not having to work just right now. I've got PLENTY of work. =D

Part of it has been to re-kindle my own imagination. There is a need for good stories as the fountain of good thoughts, which can then spill over into poetry and music! Lately, there's been a lot more facts and numeric patterns filling my brain-- academia, you know. Somehow we lose the stories way too easily... But at prayer meeting on Wednesday night, (my now-husband) Ryan gave a passionate, winsom presentation I guess you'd call it. One of our pastors had him come up before the assembled body and share his burden for the neighborhood children. [our church building is across the street from a small community park teeming with children, most unsupervised-- well, let's put it this way: the two-year-olds come with the five-year-olds.] Ryan's heart for these kids was jarred to life when he realized it's the drug dealers whom they greet by who are quite happy to get to know these precious little souls, with the end goal of ruining their lives; putting them in bondage to the wares they sell. Should those who enslave be more willing to invest than those who would set free?? No!

What does all this have to do with Imagination? Getting there... basically Ryan's heart is going to come out into a "Read With Us" program once a week. Every Thursday from 7-8, we're at in the gazebo at the park, reading with any kids who want to come. Besides the huge need that these kids have-- to learn to read fluently, confidently, even enjoyably (they all read far below grade level)-- there is a dearth of imagination in that park. And where will they get that without stories?

Ryan's points kindled further conversation between my friend Ashlea & I. As she said so well, "Without imagination, you're essentially limiting yourself to what you can see-- a fundamental flaw of the Enlightenment and Modernism." I wanted to shout "Amen!" This was something that bothered me a lot when I was tutoring at a public middle school: there were so many books that were supposed to be "relevant" to the students. Books about fragmented families, about tough life, about divorce, about dropping out of school, about gangs, about divorce... supposedly to stimulate the kids to read more. While I understand the sentiment, it disturbed me. They already know about all THAT. They don't need anyone to tell them THAT exists. We all know our own stories waaaaay too well. What they need, what I need, are stories to get us outside of ourselves; stories where things are the same, but different; where we learn that things aren't always this way; where we learn to think a little differently than we ever thought before. What I was trying to put my finger on with those vaguely disappointing books was this: imagination! It was utterly missing!

This sounds like something I've heard before somewhere...something about "not sight," about something that was nothing if we could physically see it before us... what was it? Oh yeah-- it was hope. It was Faith. Can you have either without Imagination?

Without imagination, and the skill to dicipher meaning from letters, how can a person ever think about Jesus? How can someone without imagination-- the ability to infuse unfamiliar word-formed-descriptions with life and color-- ever read and enjoy Scripture? When Ryan was saying some of this sort of thing, it took quite a bit of self-restraint to keep me from running up and hugging him right there! =D

To close, here are some quotes freshly in my mind from Mark Buchanon's book, Your God is Too Safe. Speaking of our loss of imagination in our cultural pursuit of the easily understood, the pragmatic, he writes:

"We fear imagination [today] believing it somehow undermines the purity of truth [...] There's almost no awareness that maybe imagination is the missing link between having a doctrine, and living it. What's at stake is our ability to know God and worship Him." (p. 53; Chapter 5--Imagination, Mystery and Wonder -I recommend that whole chapter)

"An accurate understanding of the formation of the Christian life requires three things: stories well-told, Scripture sharply imagined, and language skillfully used. All three are essential." (Foreward)

The three build on one another, it seems to me, and I think that sentence could serve very well as a summary of the goals of "Read With Us," and I hope, every interaction I have with other people. Especially children.

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