“you can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.”
— mark twain
“be mindful of your heart, for that’s where life starts.”
— proverbs 4:23
This Sunday, November 3, we will meet back at the Historic 512 (in the CTL) as we welcome special guest, singer/songwriter Hannah Kirby!
It’s always an amazing morning of celebration and music with Hannah (a finalist on The Voice and a long-time friend of eleven:eleven!) Her time with us is always a gift — both figuratively and literally, as she refuses compensation for coming all the way to us from East Texas. So I hope you can come and join us for a celebration of community, music, communion, and the imagination!
In the meantime, here are some thoughts to get you thinking about imagination this week!
Some years ago, I was telling stories at an afternoon family concert in Highland Park, Dallas. There were maybe 200 people — families, kids, adults. On the front row was this very precocious looking 8-year-old boy.
I assumed he was precocious because the book in his lap was the most recent volume of the Harry Potter saga, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — a fairly sophisticated literary tome comparable in size with War and Peace!
As I told story after story, I couldn’t help notice this boy shaking his head back and forth, as though disapproving of something. Finally, after my third story, he said under his breath, clearly intending for others to hear, “That didn’t happen. It’s NOT real.”
His mother leaned over and tried to quiet him. But he looked up and said insistently, “Those stories aren’t real!”
At that point, he had everyone’s attention, as if they had been under a manipulative spell from which he had now heroically freed them.
So I figured I should address the matter head-on.
“Hi, my name’s Tom. What’s yours?”
He looked at me, curiously, “I know your name,” he said. “You introduced yourself earlier. My name is Edward Charles Hannon, Jr.” (Okay, I’m not giving you his real name. But he did introduce himself with his threefold name, including the “Jr”, and his mom just gave me a sympathetic smile as if to say, “Well, you asked?”)
So I said, “It’s nice to meet you, Edward. So, tell me, why you think my story isn’t real.”
He closed his book, “It isn’t REAL, because you’re just making it up. It’s just your imagination.”
Well, he had me there — “it’s just your imagination!” Not science. Not materialistic proof of anything tangible. Other than simple entertainment, my time with them was of no value whatsoever. Clearly I was defeated and should just pack up my guitar and ukulele and children’s books and head out the door before he really put me in my place.
BUT. WAIT. He had that book in his lap.
So I pointed to the massive Harry Potter tome and said, “I see you’re reading Harry Potter. You enjoying the book?”
“Of course. Obviously! It’s like the best series ever!”
So I asked him to describe a favorite scene from this particular volume.
Suddenly his whole body was animated!
“My favorite scene is when Harry was in the final battle with Lord Voldemort, running up the stone stairs at Hogwarts. The castle was all broken up in ruins and Harry got to the top of the steps, when Lord Voldemort’s evil giant snake, Nagiri, slid out from behind a big stone column, and it scared Harry and it knocked him backwards! And he fell down the steps and lost his wand! And Nagiri slid closer and closer toward him and Voldemort stood below him!! And Harry was trapped and weak and scared!”
I have to admit, the kid was an engaging storyteller. He had the attention of the whole room!
His mother tried to calm him down some, when I decided to interrupt for a moment.
“Edward? Hey. So, tell us, was it exciting and scary?”
“Yeah!” he exclaimed.
“And when the serpent was hovering over him, could you see Nagiri and those narrow yellow snake eyes? ”
“He’s a huge snake and it was REALLY scary!”
“Did you feel a little scared?” I asked.
“A lot scared!” Some of the parents chuckled. They were guessing where this was going, I think.
I quickly held up my hand and added, “But wait a minute, Edward. So, you’re saying you felt REAL feelings of being excited and REAL feelings of being a little scared. Right?”
“Yeah?” he replied, curious.
“But Edward, how’s that possible?” I asked, “Since THAT story Didn’t. Really. Happen? The story isn’t real is it?”
The room went silent.
“And yet, Edward,” I smiled, “What you experienced reading that story WAS real. You had REAL feelings. REAL pictures in your mind! It seems crazy. It’s just fiction. But the story became REAL, because you imagined it as real. You felt REAL feelings from reading a fictional story. You MADE it real!”
Edward’s eyes widened with curiosity as he turned to look up at his mom’s face smiling back at him. And with her hands on either side of her face, fingers spread, and, making the universal motion of someone’s mind blown, she went, “BHOOOM!”
Over the years, I have come to believe that anything worth considering (and sharing and believing) begins with the imagination. As with First UMC’s amazing history of investing time and money in impossible times (breaking ground for the current campus, for example, on the day the Stock Market Crashed, 1929), FUMCFW has always held to the faith that imagination makes the impossible real.
The Proverb above suggests that what is truest about us, what gives life, has less to do with what is logical and often more to do with where our heart is — where we are imaginative, vulnerable, dreaming of possibilities, open, and even leaning into the unknown around us. Of course, it is often easiest for us to imagine the worst in situations. But what might happen if we practice leaning in more, actively imagining love at the heart of things? How might we imagine us in specific ways, loving others, investing in others, investing in life?
Imagination makes the impossible real.
I hope you can join us this Sunday to hear Hannah Kirby, celebrate our community and join us as we play with our imaginations! See you then.
Rev. Tom McDermott
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven