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By Diana Gee

“This must be a simply enormous wardrobe!” thought Lucy, going still further in and pushing the soft folds of the coats aside to make room for her. Then she noticed that there was something crunching under her feet. “I wonder is that more mothballs?” she thought, stopping down to feel it with her hand. But instead of feeling the hard, smooth wood of the floor of the wardrobe, she felt something soft and powdery and extremely cold. “This is very queer,” she said, and went on a step or two further.

C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

I can be faulted for having a vivid imagination. As a child, I would have no problems reading stories about magical worlds late into the night. Dragons? Fairies? UNICORNS?!! These other-worldly creatures beckoned me to venture into a place that was incomparable to the usual trek to school with standard workbooks and bullies. That place was in my mind and yet, it wasn’t. The words I read painted images that were beyond anything I could normally experience as an Asian girl growing up in a small prairie city. Those words took me into worlds where misfits could be heroes and children could be powerful.

Of course those worlds also included evil and sinister motives. But good seemed to always triumph after a long perilous journey. These stories tended to involve a group of characters that were unlikely to cooperate if not for a common purpose or enemy. And because these characters were a hodgepodge of personalities, I could be one of them on this adventure. These stories took me in because I could see it, I could picture it in my mind as though it was happening to me.

Remarkably, it all began with a picture, according to C.S. Lewis, author of one of the most beloved children’s stories in western literature. Not a painted picture, but an imagined one of a faun bearing umbrellas and parcels in a snowy woods. That image launched an exploration that resulted in a series of books, which in turn invited countless readers – including yours truly – into the world of Narnia. This imagined story was so powerful that even after all these years Narnia has never left me. Last spring I placed my palm at the back of an old wardrobe in The Kilns, Lewis Close. I pushed – half expecting the slates of wood to give way to a forest. My friend and I laughed with mirth and a tinge of disappointment. Who wouldn’t want Narnia to be real?

That’s the drawback of imagination. Reality is never as beautiful or fulfilling as we imagine it could be. Reality is chaos and random, or mundane and pedestrian. Reality punches one in the gut from time to time, and leaves you gasping. Reality can drain you of energy with its demands and responsibilities. In these moments, my imagination can easily slip into fantasy when I want control or an escape. Fantasy is seductive and sweet, but leaves one feeling hungry and perhaps even angry when the illusion fades.

Without my imagination though, my faith and capacity for growth would have died long ago. Certainty would have ruled my thinking and would have told me that this is it. Life is just a series of happenstances that mean nothing and will never mean anything. Close the door and move on; run with the rest of the children.

Imagination makes me pause and consider another interpretation. With my imagination I can see reality being shaped or fitted into the arch of a larger story yet to be completed. Imagination is the ability to visualize a different view of things. Or perhaps it’s not ability at all but a divine grace because who can see beyond this world without the aide of something or someone outside of us? Perhaps this is what is meant by the “Christian imagination.” Christian imagination is hope-filled and generative. It’s looking beyond what the natural senses say are the boundaries to real life and believing that there is more. There is more grace, more joy, more love. Faith is being sure of what we hope for. It is being certain of what we do not see. I have found that prayer is the means to access that divine imaging. Prayer is that doorway where we are invited to step further into God’s reality that is far grander than our own.

Therefore, I’ll always keep reading and keep imagining the possibilities. Maybe there is a purpose. Maybe there is a hopeful future. Maybe there is a goodness that will win in the end. And maybe, should I ever come across another wardrobe, I’ll take a step in.

Diana Gee is the Associate Pastor of Faith Community Christian Church in Vancouver, Canada. Diana is a second-generation, Chinese Canadian, born and raised in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She is trained as a structural engineer (B.Sc. in Civil Engineering, University of Alberta) and has worked in consulting for six years. She completed her master’s degree at Regent College (M.Div.) in 2011.

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By Ajung Sojwal

I am frequently asked this question, “Why did you choose to be ordained in the Episcopal Church?” This was never a question for me through the discernment process toward ordination in the Episcopal Church. Now, after more than ten years of ordained ministry, this has become a deeply personal question.

I have wrestled with God and my own sense of call into the Episcopal Church as I interviewed with church after church for the position of Rector, often making it to the final list of candidates, only to find out the church decided not to go forward with my application. The most common reason given for their rejection of me was that they felt I was not a good “fit” for their church.

After one more of those times when yet again, I was deemed not a good “fit,” I struggled with the whole notion of being called into God’s work in the Episcopal Church. In the turmoil of the emotional battle within me, I heard a voice deep within my soul say, “I will send you where I send you.” Since then, I have approached my deep yearning to partner with God in His work in and through a local church, more as a sending and less of a call. I am confident more than ever that Jesus alone has the prerogative to “call.” Those who dare to answer that call will always be “sent” by Him to people who will receive us with joy, but with many more we may have to shake the dust off our feet and move on.

This is also when I began to understand that churches often settle into a place of being custodians of what it meant to be the Body of Christ in imaginations past. An Asian woman, like me, behind the Lord’s Table and in the pulpit, has never been featured in the imagination of historically “white” or “black” American churches. I will never “fit” into the picture that is already developed, framed and hung within the walls of churches built to capture the imagination of God as experienced in the past.

Yet, I firmly believe that I, and people like me, are sent to the very places where we will be spewed out by systems held captive to the imagined glory of a monochromatic past. Yet, I go trusting in God’s vision of His magnificent Kingdom free from human descriptions where people like me have always been featured in certain ways. In God’s sending of me to where he sends me next, I choose to open myself to surprises of the Kingdom where lowly mustard seeds become trees, the Kingdom where the last can be first, where a woman’s hidden leaven transforms the flour, where the fisher-folk gathers all sorts of fish and the monochrome snapshot of the past turns into the panoramic masterpiece of God’s new creation.

This is faith for me, that I am sent not to affirm someone’s banal imagination of the Body of Christ, but to proclaim with my voice and in my body, the untamable imagination of a God who seeks not for the good fit but for belief that the Body of Christ has resurrected and is on the move.

Ajung Sojwal is the Interim Rector at Calvary Church in Stonington, CT. She lives with her husband in Stonington, CT.

Imagination: Yes-And

Photo by Lauren Manning

By Angela Ryo 

A couple weeks ago, as part of our staff retreat, we attended an improvisation workshop led by MaryAnn McKibben Dana. MaryAnn told us that improvisation is really more of an attitude with which we live life rather than something that is performed on stage. It’s embracing everything — both good and bad –that comes our way and building on it before we throw it back out into the world. Improvisation starts with saying “yes” to what lies in our path and working with it to create something of our own before we hand it off to someone else.

This basic principle of improvisation can be expressed in two words: Yes-And. When life is seen in this way, there is no such thing as failure or mistake — everything is an event that happens to us (yes) and our creative reaction to it (and). In fact, when ministry is approached with the Yes-And attitude, we are able to engage with situations in ways we could not have imagined before. If “yes” is the acceptance of our situation, “and” is the imagination that leads us to grow as people and ministers who can help usher in the kingdom of God.

I believe the gospel, God’s kingdom, prophets — they all have one thing in common: they all point us toward imagining an alternative world that is here and is yet to come. Jesus continually pointed to a different world instead of combating to establish his kingdom on earth.

The basic principle of improvisation, Yes-And, made me think about how church needs to recognize our current reality and engage our imagination about how we are to react to it. Are we allowing safe spaces for questions and opportunities to live out those questions rather than spoon-feeding the “right” answers? Our ministry can only be as good as the stories we tell, questions we ask, and risks we take to imagine a new world (i.e. God’s world) while we acknowledge our current predicament.

McKibben Dana writes in her book, God, Improv, and the Art of Living, “When we improvise, we take a risk, not knowing where Yes-And will take us. In this sense, improv provides a different spin than the traditional “taking a leap of faith.” As TJ and Dave write in their book, “Faith is not jumping from point A to point B. Faith is jumping from point A.” Likewise, when we allow our imagination to drive our ministry toward how our world ought to be rather than maintaining status quo, we run the risk of running into strong oppositions. But if we don’t dream, continue to use our imagination, and say Yes-And, I’m not sure how long our ministry will last.

Angela Ryo currently serves as the Assistant Pastor for Christian Formation at Kirk in the Hills in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. She enjoys taking long walks, reading, listening to NPR, and drinking good coffee with friends and strangers alike.

praying woman

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By Sarah D. Park

I used to be on worship teams, though truth be told, I’m not a pretty singer. My tone cannot carry soft songs that make people cry during the bridge. My range is somewhere on the high end for most men and the low end for most women, forcing me to find a more comfortable harmony.  I can barely sing most melodies from start to finish, with my voice trailing off at some point. Continue Reading »

Photo by Jack Sem

By Grace May

When I accept me at my worst, not darting God’s eyes or making excuses, then I can live into a different reality, where I live not only as forgiven, but transformed. “If anyone is in Christ, [she] is a new creation. Old things have passed away; behold! all things have become new” (2 Cor 5:17). Hearing God’s call of mercy each day invites me to hum a new tune, because I am a brand new person. Continue Reading »

By Wendy Choy-Chan

A very familiar verse from the Bible is, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9). It follows Paul’s pleading with the Lord to remove his thorn, something Paul was unable to do himself. It was a weakness of incapability, of powerlessness. I cannot help but think (cynically): What else can we do but to rely on God’s power, when we cannot do anything to change the situation? But how about when we do have something to fight with and fight back? Continue Reading »

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Photo by Martin Brigden

By Tina Teng-Henson

2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Continue Reading »

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