Holding Stories Safely

Dashing princes, dragons that breathe fire, heroines feisty and filled with grit—such scenes sparkled across the walls of my mind as I’d drift off to sleep as a child, golden shapes embedding themselves deep within me.

We’re a people of stories, a culture of stories. We love a good flick on the big screen or the latest plot twist in a real-life drama. But are stories safe with us?

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Scripture Aesthetics: The Prodigal Son

Few stories in Scripture can affect the heart as profoundly as that of the prodigal from Luke 15:11-32. Despite the parable’s fame, I find it sad that we so often limit the cast of characters to two rather than three. (I tend to identify more with the guy usually left in the shadows—the older brother.) Ready to immerse your senses in this gospel-shaped tale? Gather around the feet of Jesus. Instead of, “Once upon a time,” He opens with, “There was a man who had two sons.”

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Scripture Aesthetics: Christmas Edition, Part 1

Every once in a while, I let my imagination run wild with characters found in Scripture, blending earthy elements from the original historical setting with some modern twists, to get an idea of what they might have been like. Which sensations and experiences could capture each individual’s essence? Adam and Eve, Esther, Samson and Delilah, Ruth, Mary and Martha—all of these have taken a turn. It’s time for a seasonal spin, don’t you think? With eggnog in hand and twinkle lights as a backdrop, let’s view the main cast of Christmas through creative lenses.

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Scripture Aesthetics: Esther

If it’s been a while since you immersed yourself in the story of Esther, I guarantee it will be a half-hour well spent. With equal parts romance and bloodshed, the tagline could easily read, “All’s fair in love and war.” Oddly enough, you never see God’s name even once, but He’s there working behind the scenes of this epic chapter in the Big Story. Want a teaser of the main characters?

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Essential Stories

Two sisters, orphaned and isolated, loose winter’s blast across the summer landscape and embark on a journey to drive it back home again.

They fly a bicycle across the moon, the boy and his otherworldly creature.

A little girl from nowhere shuts up a nightmarish beast into the fiery hole in a wall, saving her friends from certain death (with the help of an Eggo or two).

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Scripture Aesthetics: Samson and Delilah

Bible newbies might assume that the tale of Samson and Delilah is an edgy romance, ready to plug and play for Valentine’s Day. The actual story (Judges 16) reads much closer to a classical tragedy in which political intrigue runs rampant, the very flawed hero falls, all hope is lost, and then everybody dies. Prostitution. Assault. Disfigurement. Ethnic cleansing. Not exactly suitable for Sunday school felt boards. What assortment of senses and experiences might capture the flavor of this seedy couple? Here’s my take.

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Scripture Aesthetics: The Garden

The value of the myth is that it takes all the things we know and restores to them the rich significance which has been hidden by ‘the veil of familiarity’. The child enjoys his cold meat (otherwise dull to him) by pretending it is buffalo, just killed with his own bow and arrow. And the child is wise. The real meat comes back to him more savoury for having been dipped in a story; you might say that only then is it the real meat. If you are tired of the real landscape, look at it in a mirror. By putting bread, gold, horse, apple, or the very roads into a myth, we do not retreat from reality: we rediscover it. As long as the story lingers in our mind, the real things are more themselves.

(C.S. Lewis, ‘On Stories’)

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Hoist the Colors

There’s a soft spot in my heart for Captain Jack Sparrow. Not because of his cheeky spirit or swashbuckling guyliner, but because he’s who I am without Jesus.

A friend says God’s people have always behaved more like pirates than children. We invent ways to destroy, to rebel, to plunder, to make of this beautiful world a scavenged carcass. No rules for us! we cry on our unimpeded path to chaos. We naturally perfect violence and corruption in our black hearts; seas teem with the carnage we’ve created. The flag that flies over us is death, but nothing can convince us that we’re not masters of our own fates, captains of our own souls. And we pilot our ships and everyone around us straight to hell, singing loudly and numbing ourselves to the pain with delusions of glorious independence.

And then, one Friday afternoon, the sky goes dark and every pirate flag disappears. We all lift our eyes and gaze at the new crimson banners snapping overhead, and the ocean is stocked with very confused marauders.

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