Category: Faith and Imagination (page 1 of 7)

Dreams You Don’t Remember

I’ve dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after, and changed my ideas: they’ve gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the color of my mind.            –Emily Bronte

Some mornings, before I’m fully awake, I lie in bed swimming in a sea of dreams. Their images (a cup, a pew, a panting dog) float around me in nets of narratives but then dissolve as I climb into consciousness. Every rare once in a while I can pull one into the air. Once I realize I’ve done this, I repeat the dream to myself until I can reach pen and paper. Even if I have no idea what the dream is about, the fact of harvesting the dream feels significant. I’ve heard you, my remembering seems to say. The gift of you, I’ve received. Continue reading

Praying Like a Novelist

The most well-known fiction-writing exercise comes from John Gardner’s The Art of Fiction, in which he asks us to describe a barn as seen by a man whose son has just been killed in a war—but without mentioning the son, war, or death. The goal is to inhabit a character so completely that you see how they see, and you bring to bear on your seeing their history and loves and losses. It’s a great practice. When I’ve used the exercise in classes, I add other scenarios as well: Now describe the barn as seen by a teenage girl who’s just developed her first crush. Now describe it as seen by a weary farmer who’s recently gone bankrupt. Now by a weary cow…

Fiction writing is an exercise in empathy, or perhaps a state beyond that—a thorough imagining our way into the lives of others. Continue reading

Faith and the “Poopy Growth Mindset”

Ask what I’m learning in the Living School and I’ll blather incoherently, enthusiastically, and at great length about the Christian mystical tradition, the significance of contemplation, and a complete overhaul of my faith. I was doing just that at Easter dinner a few weeks ago. My father-in-law asked, and all eleven relatives at the table stared at me blankly while I answered. Afterward, my brother-in-law quipped, “You should say you’re studying an ancient wisdom tradition. Calling it ‘Christian’ just throws everybody off.” Well, yes. Continue reading

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