Finding the Story (1)


Potential and possibility.

Narnia books, Harry Potter, What Katy did at school- Susan Coolidge, Rosy is my relative – Gerald Durrell.

Source stories – exodus, promised land

Agape – present tense encouragement



A thrilling space but also scary.

Feel alone, exposed, without a map.

Signpost us through it.


Invited in:

To a different "mental space"

- the inner world of the imagination

- physically still here and now

- but a different way of being in it

- a different way of

seeing, thinking about, experiencing

the present moment

The "beginning" of the good news of Jesus Christ


Experience of praying broad similarities to the experience of listening to and entering into a story someone is telling.

Invited into an alternate reality.

Inside our minds, yet embraces us as whole people.

Another space, within and yet beyond the ordinary physical world which we inhabit.

A space set apart for God's purposes.

When we pray together, a shared experience.


People skilful in leading corporate prayer are aware of this.

Not always easy to pay attention when someone else is speaking.

Rhythm (appeal to the physical, senses, pulse, light and shade, cycle)

Structure (beginning, middle, end)

Direction (gathering all we are, gathering each one, aligning Godward)

Substance, content (understanding the work of bringing both joy and sorrow to God)


Build character (foster courage)

Strengthen relationship

remind us that we are loved,

express our desire to love God

affirm us so that we can love ourselves

not just challenge us to love our neighbour

but encourage us to believe we are capable of doing so

Enable us to imagine the treasure.




The Story and the Song

Image: Circle, celebration, dance, occupying our own space, song, projection of the personality, ring, adoration, thanksgiving, gratitude, ecstasy, frenzy, prophecy, forth-telling, ritual, myth, drama, play, performance.


Questions: How do we celebrate life in the midst of death?


Discussion: Only through faith in the power and goodness of God. Only by being willing to walk through our fears. Only by taking risks. Only by taking ourselves lightly. Only by playing the fool.

Preaching abundance often causes offence. People are suspicious and sceptical. Even hostile. There are reasons for this. Going beyond acceptance, we celebrate what is given, through paying attention to it, giving thanks to God for it, cherishing it, rejoicing in it with others, and regarding it as an abundance. We celebrate the abundance given. We celebrate it as an abundance, even if it is not.


Meditation: Foolhardy God, with foolish friends.


Prayer: God the artist, acrobat, craftsman, singer, actor, jester, clown.


stories come to us out of the Wild, as untamed fragments of narrative, exploding like fireworks in the dark halls of the mind. Snap, whoosh, bang. A sudden, intense lights. A jazz of bright colour. Sharp frames of shadow. And behind them, half-revealed, a vast and inaccessible cavern, unexplored territory, the glimpse of which is transient, almost unnoticed, and yet burned into the memory like a negative into rock.


stories have an existence, independent of any one of us, which limits our ability to own them. Stories belong to everyone and no one. They are as old as their first telling, and as young as the version in your subconscious, unformed and not yet born because it is still untold.

there is a sense in which the precise words or form of a story is less important than the gist of it, the plot or the dynamic. These days we are so much in awe of good writing as writing, and scholarship for its own sake, and cleverness as an intellectual adventure that needs no further justification, that we tend to forget that the placing of words on a page is a means to an end. The words only exist to serve the story, and if they do not do so, then they are only so much empty air.


Telling a story creates an imaginary space into which we – and our hearers – enter, through our capacity to envisage, to see things happening around us, with our “mind’s eye.” As we enter into it in this way, the story becomes alive for us, and we live in it for a time. It carries us along and shapes the experience of the moment. Not only do we see it, we feel it too. We are informed by the story, but also formed by it, and even energised by it.


Stories that are profound, or well-told, or that resonate with our previous experience, can alter our attitudes, our behaviour, even the direction of our lives. Sometimes the life of a story is a promise, a seed of faith – believe this, and you will receive a blessing. Sometimes it is a method – to achieve your goal, do this, and then do this. Sometimes it is an image that, burned into the mind’s eye, expresses an enabling truth.


Whatever the means, what is conveyed is spiritual power, the energy to live an abundant life. By changing the way we think, stories affect our ability to live a transformative life, because some states of mind release energy for creativity and action, while other states of mind deplete us and drain us.


we miss the argument;

we lose our vision of the whole;

we miss the input of the collective, ancient Other.


Listening to stories is like viewing the Sistine Chapel by candlelight. Without the candle, you see nothing at all. There is only darkness. Look at the candle itself, and you see light, but the flame fills your eyes and dazzles you. Look past the candle, and perhaps you begin to see shapes and colours; fragments of a pattern; glimpses of a grand design; shards of glory.


As it happens, this is one of the ways in which our ancestors first looked at art on walls. Not by daylight, or any diffused light at all, still less with spotlights or torches, but in the fluttering, smoky light of animal fat or resin lamps, carried with care through narrow tunnels down into the earth. Prehistoric art falls into two broad categories: objects that were portable, carried around by small bands who lived off the land, hunting and gathering; and art that stayed put because it was painted or carved into stone. Some wall-carvings and wall-paintings are in the open, at regularly-used sites or special meeting-places, but many more have survived underground, and sometimes far underground, in the deep, hidden recesses of caves.


Part of the interpretative backdrop of their lives. Ancient, objective, awesome, constant, eternal, mysterious, terrifying and exciting. By contrast portable art has a transient quality. Though it might be highly personal, related to my life, my experience- might also be handed down from one generation to another, it can also be lost, mislaid, stolen. Its endurance is of a different kind, more likely to be connected with deep currents of awareness, perhaps cyclical rhythms, such as maternity, menstruation, childbirth. Death and life bound up together perhaps.


Also a close connection between art and story, art and spirituality, story and spirituality. One’s own personal story, and the story of the group, the people, and the story of the land. A people know the story of the land through which they move. Not in a rational, scientific way, but in the sense that while their understanding of the landscape orientates them there in space, their understanding of the story orientates them there in time.    



The Story and the Song

Image: The Song that draws us into itself.


How do we celebrate life in the midst of death? Acting as if to celebrate the power and goodness of God, by being willing to walk through our fears, by taking risks, by taking ourselves lightly, by playing the fool. God the artist, acrobat, craftsman, singer, actor, jester, clown. Foolhardy Christ, with foolish friends


Meditation: Artists are healed through their art. Artists heal through their art.


Prayer: O God of the song in me……..

The stories in their original form offer us a truth we can find in no other place. But so does the editing of those stories, the process of shaping that they have gone through, the dynamics that propelled that process, and the stories as they have become. The way we tell a story matters. The way we change a story matters. How and why and in what direction and for what reasons we make those changes matters.


The image of the quest is another legacy of the hunt. The whole experience of the hunt - the search and the pursuit, the confrontation and the kill, the return and the feast - became so freighted with association, symbolic action and meaning that the process became a symbol in itself. A symbolic structure. A narrative. A story. The quest for an item or person of great value, for some form of abundance or abundant life, is the original and archetypal plot, the foundation of every story that has ever been told, ever since.


The stories in their original form offer us a truth we can find in no other place. But so does the editing of those stories, the process of shaping that they have gone through, the dynamics that propelled that process, and the stories as they have become. The way we tell a story matters. The way we change a story matters. How and why and in what direction and for what reasons we make those changes matters.


What is the framework that we use today? Lack a commonly agreed framework, hence the confusion and chaos of individual meanings, stories, structures. Pluralism does not allow any one framework to dominate, or frame our experience - hence the competition between meta-narratives of Christianity and Islam is seen as a fight to the death. Or they may make common cause against secularism, rationalism, enlightenment, progressives, liberals, radicals, atheists.


Heathenism/paganism gives way to Christianity, which in turn is elbowed aside by the priority of individual experience. Friedrich stands at the point when this process is beginning. When the three are focused together in space and time. In 19th century Germany. The old paganism is not dead, as they supposed, but sleeping, dormant, ruined under the snow. The Christianity is shadowy, mysterious, distanced, out of reach or subsumed into individual experience - into symbols in individual experience. F. thought - or seems to imply that the heathen world is in ruins, but maybe it is just biding its time, waiting for its own form of resurrection. And the Church? No more use than a ghost, if we consider the institution. But the experience, the spiritual experience of the Christian, that still has validity, though not a validity that can be imposed on anyone. Only a validity to the extent that it is authentic, and it makes us authentic. In our integrity, we validate our own experience. Both in our own eyes, and in the eyes of others.


Art labours against dissolution. Restores. The hovel as monument. The painting itself constructs a refuge for the viewer.


(from reading a book on Caspar David Friedrich)


The Spirit is essentially dynamic, always on the move, and so in a sense, always ahead of us. Even as we reach out - with eye, thought or hand - the Spirit has already moved on.   Mostly, we glimpse the Spirit’s presence with hindsight, deducing that the Spirit has been active because we recognise specific outcomes or effects. Consequently, the Spirit is next to impossible to grasp with our rational minds, let alone describe. Plain words will not suffice. Our usual forms of reckoning have no meaning.   We have no option but to use poetry, the language of story and vision, symbol and song.


Process radically new, but not what it reveals. This must once have been apparent in the world. One finds it again. A sense of something lost, then re-found.   Hermeneutic of lost or forgotten meaning.

A qualitative potentializing. The operation (dynamic?) unknown.

Commonplace, ordinary - higher meaning, enigmatic appearance = romanticism.

Higher, unknown, mystical, infinite - an ordinary expression = also romanticism (?)

Alternating elevation and debasement.


The whole of reality becomes Romance, or novel. A literary genre is projected onto all reality. Perceived origins in the past languages and literatures of medieval Christian romance. Reading the world like a book, and imagining or writing a book that would be consubstantial with the world. Because the universe is amazingly huge and complex, the process is unknown, indeterminate, open-ended. And yet a novel does need closure, resolution, shape, structure, framework, in order to render the world legible, so that it can be read at all.

Evocation of the faraway and indistinct; evocation of an evocation; names the unnameable. Absence of precision, definition. Cannot yet, or ever, be described. Essentially in a state of becoming; always in a state of becoming. Never completed.

(from reading a book on Caspar David Friedrich)


Consequences: the shape of the story

Boy’s name. Girl’s name. They met ….. (where?)

He said -   She said - Then what happened next?

And the consequence was ………

Hero/heroine’s name   Monster (It – what kind?)   Met (where?)

Hero said/did   - Monster said/did - Then what happened next?

And the consequence was ……..

Not just illustrations - The story embedded in the text

Many different forms of story – shapes and elements


Gospel shows a pattern of Spirit given, testing undergone, then proclamation. Our witness emerges not only from our gifts – or not from our gifts in their raw state – but from our gifts as they have been tested in the crucible of experience. That is the material from which our witness is formed, and the material that shapes our witness. It gives direction – a constituency – a context – a way of working – Christ’s sufferings took him down to hell for others.

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