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It was cold. Bitter cold. Inhospitable wind tore through the skin like a serrated knife rips through a fresh loaf of bread. Ice on the road created for an interesting drive. A stoplight turned green, cars drifted from side to side struggling for just a little bit of traction. Recent snowfall, once beautiful and pure, turned to a murky slush. Walking, which is normally a straightforward endeavor, was on this day, like solving an impossible puzzle.

 

It was a Catholic church, beautiful and pleasing to the eyes. Rows of burning candles decorated the sanctuary. Light flickered. It bounced off stonewalls shining light, even if just a faint glimmer, into the darkness of the room. One candle was enough to push back the brooding darkness. Wax dripped and rolled down the side of each candle like a drip of water on a condensing glass. Fire danced like an erotic dancer.

 

Intricate. Detailed. Ornate. Time. Energy. Creativity. The high painted ceiling seemed so close you could almost touch it. One could only revel in its beauty. Words could not do it justice. But why spend so much time on mere ascetics?

 

The Catholic cathedrals themselves have something to tell us, although it does not require words. The soul yearns to express itself in creativity. Creativity is how it all began. It is a benevolent gift from God. It might be the only way to communicate the deep silence of truth in life. Of course, creativity was Adam’s original job description, naming everything God had made. Creativity is what we are made for.

 

Marcus Aurelius says, “Dig within. Within is the wellspring of good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig.” John Steinbeck, a central author of American literature says, “And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for…”

 

Imagination. Everyone has one. You don’t have to be asleep to dream. Buechner says, “Imagination is perhaps as close as humans get to creating something out of nothing the way God is said to.”[1] Imagination is a power with great potential. It is like whistling or building muscles. Like anything else worth doing, it requires from us some hard work. But even a little taste, even a little broken whistle, is enough to keep us going.

 

Great imaginers wrote the Bible, and great imaginers it takes to appreciate it. To read the Bible with imaginative eyes means more than just reading it, seeing it, or hearing it. It demands we use our imagination if we are to get it at all. Buechner says, “Be the man who trips over a suitcase of hundred dollar bills buried in the field he’s blowing if you want to know what the Kingdom of Heaven is all about.” Wear the shoes of both the good and the bad, because we are all both good and bad. “Try to know them for who they are inside their skins. Hear not just the words they speak but the words they do not speak.” [2] Jesus had eyes to see rich and poor, lucky and unlucky, religious and not, strong and the weak, both pious and profane. Jesus saw all of us. “The highest work of imagination is to have eyes like that.”[3]

 

Look around sometime. Notice a dynamic creation. Work on your imagination. Creativity is a gift from God. It is worth fighting for. It is worth our time. This is what the Catholic Church knows, whether it knows it or not.


[1] Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized, (1988), 64.

[2] Frederick Buechner, Whistling in the Dark: An ABC Theologized, (1988), 64.

[3] Ibid, 65

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It seemed as if time had slowed down. Minutes felt like hours and hours like days. Dumbbells were shackled around their hiking boots. Backpacks topped of with bricks. Each step up the mountain was an accomplishment. Although every step meant a longer journey home. Water bottles were sucked dry by thirsty lips. The sun drifted off beyond the tops of hills, off to shed its light in some other distant land. It was their turn to borrow the sun.

As the remaining light fleeted, crickets and other strange bugs shared a tune, whether anyone was listening or not. Exhaustion slowly took hold of them without warning. Fatigue set in, deep within the bones. What had started out as an adventure, began to feel like a chore. Trail markers gave a false hope, one mile, two mile, three, it was all just the beginning. Who knew how far to the top. It seemed a never ending endeavor.

Water trickled from the side of the mountain and boldly crossed the trails path. What did it mean and from where did it come? It was the first sign of hope since the bottles ran dry. But was it safe to drink? They turned the caps and flipped the lids. Water slowly and gently percolated from the giving mountain into the bone dry bottle. The bottle was thankful, but the parched mouths even more. Refreshing. Life-giving. Vitality. Energy. Strength. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he said he is the living water.

Trickles of water sunder as violent winds blow. A double pain window, a few pieces of metal, is all that separated passengers from a malevolent atmosphere. Some read and slept, others talked anxiously with unknown neighbors. Toddlers wined and moaned and mothers said no. The airplane tipped and turned, jolted and jared like a mutant giant held it in its grasp. Was one supposed to feel scared or electrified?

Turbulence in the troposphere is characterized by chaotic changes in the environment. Atmospheric scientists define it as, “a state of fluid flow in which the instantaneous velocities exhibit irregular and apparently random fluctuations.” Thunderstorms are like mountains of air. Imagine a big rock in the middle of a flowing stream. As the current increases waves begin breaking over the boulder, foaming and frothing with turbulent force. Figuratively speaking, an airplane experiences turbulence when caught in the chaotic water surrounding the boulder.

What is it that causes fear? Does fear come from an unknown future event, such as in the case of an airline passenger who doesn’t know why the plane is tumbling and tossing like a small skiff in 40ft seas?

 

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