Religion Magazine

In Search of Wonder

By Richardl @richardlittleda

Feeding the creative mind

Tomorrow I shall travel to Birmingham to do something which I love – training those who have a story to tell it. In this particular case, the putative storytellers are missionaries in training and those who help to support them at home. My hope is that they might harness their passion for mission together with an ability to apply timeless truth in such a way that the impact of their stories lingers on.

Often when preparing for such an event, I find that my ‘radar’ for inspiration is more sensitive than ever. I find myself drawn to sources of it which would otherwise have passed me by. On this particular occasion, I am indebted to a street artist in Michigan and a primary school head in Maryland. The street artist, David Zinn, says that he finds himself inspired by the tiniest blemish of flaw on the sidewalk, and then draws ‘what I wish were there’. Take a look at the examples below, and click on the picture if you would like to hear David talk about his work. The ability to be inspired by small things is vital for any aspiring storyteller.

monster

CLICK to see David explain his work

Of course, the stories I am encouraging people to tell are theological ones. Those who tell such stories often have a problem with ragged edges. They fear creating a story in such a way that it fails to answer every question. What if it poses more questions than it answers, or leaves space for other interpretations? At this point, enter Dana Macauley, Principal at Crellin Elementary school in Maryland. She constantly encourages the children to ask ‘I wonder’ questions. Not only that, but staff members are encouraged to use those very questions in onward lesson planning. There is huge value in this, as Macauley points out: ‘If they don’t wonder, “How would we ever survive on the moon?” then that’s never going to be explored.’ However, she also goes on to outline a valuable lesson: ‘You want to encourage it enough that they continue to ask with the understanding that not all will be answered.’ (Underlining mine) Sometimes preachers and storytellers are afraid to encourage curiosity for the precise reason that it may lead to questions which they cannot answer. Frankly, there is much danger posed by that then there is by insipid speech which leaves the listener as unafraid as they are uninspired.

Tomorrow I shall pack my books, my story cubes, my squishy brain and my post-its into the car – in the hopes of encouraging a journey into uncharted territory.


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