Tag Archives: Imagine

Imagination: God’s Greatest Gift

By Eugene C. Scott

My mom was proof that, though humans were cast out and barred from the Garden, we took a piece of Eden with us, like dirt lodged under our fingernails. For nearly twenty-five years my mother lived in an ugly two-story brick apartment building in a part of the city that no longer had much going for it. No parks, few trees–buggy elms–and only the constant rush of cars going elsewhere surrounded her. Surely no garden.

Yet mom transformed that place. She had a wonderful imagination, an artist specializing in raising rose bushes. Every summer on the canvas of dirt between the apartments and where the cars nosed in to park she created a masterpiece of color and beauty. By mid July, red, yellow, white, burgundy, pink, and multicolored roses splashed their colors against the pale brick and rusted iron railing of that old building. Summer after summer people from all over the neighborhood streamed by to see what mom’s horticultural imagination had wrought.

When mom passed away in 2003, the whole neighborhood groaned in grief. For comfort, my family and I imagined mom, now healed of her emphysema, planting a rose garden in heaven, taking God’s best and giving it her own unique twist. Between tears we laughed and smiled at that picture.

Then at the memorial service, mom’s well-meaning and beloved pastor decided it was time to dispel that notion. We don’t know that there is gardening–or are even roses–in heaven, he said. He read a passage about heaven (I don’t remember which one) and told us heaven is not about continuing what we loved doing here but about being forgiven of our sins. He continued, Only what is true, not what is imagined can bring you comfort.

On one level he was right, of course. Even what we imagine heaven or God–or anything really wonderful–to be like will pale in light of God’s reality. My mom may well have gladly chucked her spade upon entering the Pearly Gates.

But . . .

Imagination is one of God’s greatest gifts. Imagine what life would be like without it (sorry).

Just think. Robert Adler imagined not having to get up from the couch to change the television channel. Viola, the remote control.

But seriously, you name it. If it exists, someone imagined it. Leif Enger’s surprising, glorious novel, “Peace Like a River,” “Star Wars,” the Internet, the artificial heart, my mom’s rose garden in the middle of a concrete jungle.

Imagination is also what infuses faith. As a matter of fact, faith would not be possible without God’s gift of imagination. By imagination I don’t mean only dreaming up Easter Bunnies. That’s only the starting place. I mean seeing something real that is not yet there–or is not there on the surface of things.

For example, some see the cross only as so much misused lumber or–today–mere jewelry. But Jesus imagined it as the ultimate instrument of healing. His death and resurrection made it so. Our God-given imaginations then let us see into the past as Jesus hung on that cross and at the same time gaze into the future as Jesus welcomes us back to the Garden.

This is the kind of imagination that thrilled atheist C. S. Lewis and made him see that “Nearly all that I loved I believed to be imaginary; nearly all that I believed to be real I thought grim and meaningless.” He read books, like George MacDonald’s fantasy, “Phantastes,” and found faith and Christ buried in the poetry and prose. His imagination was the tool God used to dig out those truths. Later, moving from atheism to belief in Christ, Lewis said his new faith came from having his imagination baptized. We know the end of that story. Lewis then used his baptized imagination to write stories that helped thousands believe in a God who came down into a weedy, overgrown garden to bring it back to its original state. Without an imagination Lewis, and you and I, would never believe.

Traditionally Lent is about fasting, giving up for a time what we think we have to help us yearn for and realize what we don’t yet believe we really do have. This Lent let God baptize your imagination. As Crystal Lewis sings, let God give you “beauty for ashes, strength for fear, gladness for mourning, peace for despair.”

God can and will show you the truth that he has planted beautiful roses even among the harsh, concrete reality of day-to-day life. As Paul said, God can do far more than we can hope or imagine.

So, what was that piece of the Garden, stuck under our fingernails, we took with us from Eden that day? Our ability to imagine what it once was and what it one day will be. And no matter what my mom’s pastor said, I can still imagine mom in the Garden–sleeves rolled up, dirt smeared face, smile a mile wide, pruning back a red rose. One day I’ll join her, I imagine.

Eugene C. Scott writes the Wednesday Neighborhood Cafe blog.  If you’re reading this on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com. Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO

Beginning on March 13–the Sunday following Ash Wednesday–we will begin a Lenten series titled “Embrace: Discover, Desire . . . Jesus” at The Neighborhood Church.  During worship we will explore those things of God we can embrace and add to our lives as a response of love to Jesus.  These worship gatherings will also include hands-on opportunities to practice these things God asks us to add to our lives.  Join us.  See tnc3.org for worship times.

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Imagine There’s No Heaven

Some people imagine that belief in God is at best delusional and at worst dangerous. The late John Lennon seemed to fall into the former group. He asked us to, “Imagine there’s no heaven.” The once mighty Soviet Union fell into the latter group. She arrayed her armies, governments, media, school system and very culture against belief in a loving God. In the Soviet Union anyone who believed in God was no better than an opium addict, a delusional, destructive and dangerous drain on society. Special units of the police searched out Christians and imprisoned or murdered them; they banned and burned Bibles and required children to attend classes which preached against the existence of God. In the U.S.S.R. belief in God was outlawed.

Like the people described in Revelation, they seemed to hope that the mountains would fall on them and hide them “from the face of him who sits on the throne.” Yet, is there anything in the universe tenacious enough–including a vivid imagination–to keep God’s love at bay?

What is it in your life or your part of the world that attempts to keep God’s love at bay, that bans belief?

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

Micah 1:1-4:13

Revelation 6:1-17

Psalm 134:1-3

Proverbs 30:1-4

If you’ve found A Daily Bible Conversation helpful, share it with your friends. Forward your daily email or send them a link to the website: www.bibleconversation.com.

THE WORD MADE FRESH

Irina Ratushinskaya, Christian poet and Russian dissident

School-girl Irina Ratushinskaya, grew up in the U.S.S.R. when belief in God was against the law. Yet she could not imagine there was no God. Sitting through one of her required anti-God courses, Irina began to think, “There must be a God. Otherwise they wouldn’t tell us over and over that there is no God.” To find out for herself Irina Ratushinskaya began to pray and the outlaw God answered her–first through a freak snow storm and then through the writings of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Years after that initial prayer, Irina Ratushinskaya saw her first Bible. Upon reading it she made another discovery. “Then I realized that I was a Christian,” she says. Irina Ratushinskaya became a world-renowned poet and was convinced of the reality of the love of Jesus Christ despite being raised in a country in which it was illegal to believe.

Let me ask again. Is there anything in the universe tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Yes, there is, though the Soviet Union failed to do so.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair was born in the United States where no laws or armies prevent belief in God. Just the opposite. God’s name is stamped on our currency. Crosses, the ultimate symbol of God’s love, stand tall in every American city.  Word of the unconditional love of Jesus Christ is available on any street corner, radio or television. Freedom to believe in God, or not, is a sacred right for all Americans.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair imagined, no, fiercely believed, there was no God and spent her life crusading against belief in the same God the U.S.S.R. failed to eliminate. She pleaded her case of unbelief all the way to the Supreme Court and was instrumental in having prayer removed from public schools. Forming an organization named the American Atheists, Madalyn Murray O’Hair litigated, cussed, fought and debated her way through thirty years of disbelief. Seemingly, Madalyn Murray O’Hair had the mirror opposite experience of Irina Ratushinskaya. As if she had said, “They talk about God so much, surely there must be no such Person.”

Tragically, Madalyn Murray O’Hair was robbed and murdered in 1995, along with her son, Jon and granddaughter, Robin, by an estranged employee and member of American Atheists. To pay her back taxes the IRS auctioned off her journals. Of all the insights those journals held into “the most hated woman in America,” as she called herself, the most revealing was how she repeated one phrase at least a half-dozen times. Though Madalyn Murray O’Hair was surrounded by belief in God, she remained impervious to God’s love. In her journals she cried out, “Somebody, somewhere, love me.”

Again, is there anything, anywhere tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Yes–a hardened human heart. No lack of desire, effort or power on God’s part kept the echo of his answer, “Madalyn, I love you” from reaching her ears. God’s respect for human freedom and dignity gave Madalyn Murray O’Hair the power to ignore his love.

Someone once said, “You can lead a horse to water; but even God won’t make it drink.”

So it is with each of us.

One ancient struggler, Paul, wrote, “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Nothing can separate us from God’s love! But we can refuse love’s entry to our hearts. Our hearts accommodate love (Jesus Christ himself) only where hate, fear and self-centeredness have fled. Like dogs on a tether we race, yapping in our assumed freedom, only to be yanked back, imprisoned by the measure of a heart not yielded to God.

“Somebody, somewhere, love me.”

Finally, is anything tenacious enough to keep God’s love at bay? Your heart, and my heart, hardened by the cares of this age, can and do. Yet the Gentleman God placed himself on the cross with his arms spread in an eternal embrace. “Come to me,” he said, “all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

If you’re reading this blog on Facebook and you’d like to join the conversation, click here. www.bibleconversation.com.

Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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