Last week I wrote a post encouraging us to be more aware of what is forming our imaginations and to be thoughtful about aligning our minds with the ways of the Kingdom of God. If our imaginations are left untended, they will be “tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people.” God’s thoughts and the thoughts of the world exist in radical opposition to one another – it’s self-giving vs. self-serving living.
Take for example the subject of Church. When we think of what Church is, do we think about it as a place to get spiritual needs met or as a gathering of the interdependent people of God? I don’t think of Church as a grocery store that you go into with a checklist. I think of Church in terms of an old, solid, deeply rooted tree with lots of branches—branches that can’t live autonomously, that can’t live apart from the living organism.
So this begs the question – what can we do to contribute toward a Spirit-shaped imagination? The quick answer is to immerse ourselves in the Bible and the body of literature that helps us enter into its world with a holy fascination. As we know it is not always that simple and our approach is as much a part of the discussion, so here are just a few practical things that I do to keep my mind pliable and leaning toward the ways of Jesus.
Pray the Lord’s Prayer – everything in the prayer given by Jesus in Matthew 6:9-13 is contrary to the ways and desires of our culture. This prayer is only something a follower of Jesus would pray. The prayer of the world is “My kingdom come, my will be done” rather than submitting ourselves to the will of God, and “Make my persecutors suffer” rather than embracing forgiveness. This is not a rote, dry repetition of an old prayer but a humble desire to give ourselves to the leadership of a holy, loving Father.
Read authors not just books – I have picked not just a series of books to read but a few authors to read. My goal is to read everything they have written. The subjects about which they write and the way they write contributes to how I think. Considering who I have chosen, the depth with which they write and the number of books they have written, it will take me most of my lifetime to achieve this goal. I have picked both non-fiction and fiction authors along both theological and pastoral themes. Eugene Peterson and Frederick Buechner are just a couple of the authors on my list.
Be very aware of cultural intake – It would be easy in this conversation to get on the anti-media bandwagon. I don’t think avoidance is either practical or inherently wise. The issue is selectivity. We have to be discriminating in what we choose to watch and listen to. And no, this does not mean we are limited to Christian TV—in some cases, it would exclude it! The safe ground is usually found somewhere in the middle of the extremes.
Get Outside – For me being outdoors on a hike, run or bike ride is a sort of detox. I am removed from the messages that continually bombard me, and I’m reminded of who is big and who is small.
Are there any other things that you find helpful to develop a Spirit-shaped imagination?