Imagination, as a child, is one thing…what about as an adult? What is the role of imagination in the life of faith for us today?
“Faith,” says theologian James Whitehead, “ is the enduring ability to imagine life in a certain way.” Jesus had invited the disciples into an imagined life of faith as he spent time with them and taught them through parables. “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow” he said……and “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour.” Jesus wanted the disciples and he wants us now to see things through the eyes of holy imagination….”look at the fig tree, seeds, weeds, coins, sheep, nets, pearls, birds…”
Many of you know my story of growing up Southern Baptist in Mississippi, divorced after twenty years of marriage, opening a business recruiting physicians, and then winding up in ministry in the Episcopal Church.
But you may not be aware that my back story is one of an Imagined Life.
Not too long after my divorce, a friend encouraged me to read a book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. This book was pivotal in my faith journey, as it helped me to envision a new reality for myself and imagine what my life could be like post-divorce. I inherently knew deep down inside that my soul was in dire need of healing and that it might take years for that to occur, so in those days I spent a good deal of time IMAGINING a life of healing and reconciliation with family and friends and a meaningful, life-giving vocation, even though there I was at the time, a wounded woman, divorced, unfinished college degree, and no fruitful career in sight.
Did I have doubts during this traumatic time in my life? Of course. Did I have the faith that God would bring healing to my soul? I didn’t know for sure. Did I believe that God would somehow bring me through it to the other side? Yes. What that future would look like, I had no idea.
God’s grace-filled catalyst? Bishop Claude Payne. In the summer of 1995 he casts his vision for the Episcopal Diocese of Texas to move from Maintenance to Mission, and he tells everyone there to go home and invite someone to church.
A few months later over in Beaumont Sally Dooley, a fellow Symphony League Board member, calls and invites me to go to St. Mark’s Episcopal Church with her, and I attend a liturgical church for the very first time. The experience was overwhelming, and through the many months that followed I struggled with what I know now was a call from God. I had a deep intuitive sense that God was calling me into ministry in a church setting, but fear on many levels prevented me from taking action.
A year later our Young Life leader invited me to his church, St. Stephen’s, where a new rector had just arrived, The Rev. Patrick Gahan. Shortly thereafter I was confirmed Episcopalian, and served as Director of Adult Ministries and Evangelism there for ten years, after which I moved to Austin to go back to school full time for a Religious Studies degree.
Quite GRACE-fully, my story has come Full Circle, and today I am honored to be working for Bishop Claude Payne as the Director of the Gathering of Leaders, a group he co-founded with its mission to empower the young clergy of the Episcopal Church to be transformational leaders in our world. I am also blessed to be serving as Project Consultant for the Newcomer Ministry Project, where I’ve created INVITE-WELCOME-CONNECT, a transformative evangelism process for our Episcopal congregations.
What I know for sure now is this: “Imagination does more than affect us; it effects change in our lives.”
Well known Episcopal priest and author Barbara Brown Taylor suggests that the church’s central task is an imaginative one. She writes: “Holy imagination is a way of seeing – a way of living – that requires a certain loosening of the grip, a willingness to be surprised, confused, amazed by the undreamt-of ways that God chooses to be revealed to us. To find the extraordinary hidden in the ordinary, we are called to participate in God’s own imagination – to see ourselves, our neighbors, and our world through God’s eyes, full of possibility, full of promise, ready to be transformed…because God is not through with us yet….”
I invite you today to imagine YOUR LIFE, and YOUR STORY, and God’s story, and how they are all woven together for the glory of God.
Imagine if we overcame our fear of invitation, if we imagined ourselves as inspired risk-takers who took the challenge of creativity seriously. Could it be that God is calling you out of your comfort zone, to have the courage to INVITE someone to church, the courage to discern your own giftedness, and then to use those gifts in the Body of Christ?
Imagine if we all had Jesus eyes to see and WELCOME the stranger into our midst. Could it be that God is calling you to see others as Jesus sees them, in the way of love and compassion and forgiveness?
Imagine if we cultivated the sacred act of listening, to listen to the Spirit, to listen to our neighbors in love, to become a CONNECTed community of holy listeners. Could it be that God is calling you to a place of holy listening?
As I begin yet another new journey of writing a blog…..
I invite you to join me in living this life of HOLY IMAGINATION....you won’t regret it!