Believing stories

It’s hot, and the three men are tired. Two of them are men, anyway. The third is much younger, yet he has seen a harder time than many would in their lifetime. He has just finished telling his story. The others are incredulous. Surely this tale cannot be real.

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[Before I go any further, it’s worth mentioning that this post follows this one from a few days ago. I’ve been thinking about stories and their significance recently, and some of those reflections are making their way into blog posts. These first two are a tad more abstract. The next one, maybe two, will hopefully bring it back to the real world. Basically the point of the first post was that stories are powerful and have real impact on those who engage with them. Stories are an essential tool of making sense of information. Because of this, it helps us make sense of events, history, and our own experiences and identity. The power of stories can be anything from the enthralling tales in Tolkien’s fantasy to didactic myths and fables to singing a story in song. Even a simple metaphor with descriptive language could be seen as use of story to illuminate a more abstract idea (“Reaching new heights like a bird in a spaceship”). Now you’re up to speed – read on!]

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Made of Stories

Very little has stuck with me from my 18 months of Communications and Journalism. Snippets about newsworthiness, communication theory, feature writing and so on come back every now and then. One lecture, however, sticks in my head. It was the first lecture in a subject for my Journalism major, called “Storytelling, Narrative and Features.” Well-known journalist David Dale came in and set out telling us about the story of stories. What followed was arguably the most interesting lecture. David told of Chaucer, a storyteller paid in wine. He outlined how good feature journalism was doing the same as fiction: gathering ideas, doing detailed research and then telling a story. It’s about virtual reality – creating the scene that can’t be immediately seen, or created by others. The characters tell the story. David suggested that despite the common motif, storytelling may be the world’s oldest profession: perhaps some primitive man offered to sacrifice a piece of his dinner to hear his neighbour tell the tale of his hunting that day. Regardless, a good story enthrals the audience. What’s more, David managed to do that as he spoke – the story of stories was engaging, and created in us a high view of the task ahead of us.

There’s something powerful in a good story. Continue reading

Book Review: One Forever by Rory Shiner.

I’m reviewing Rory Shiner’s book “One Forever” which tackles to topic of union with Christ. You can grab the book from the Matthias Media store; click HERE.


“In Christ” was the topic of National Training Event (NTE) the year before last. That meant thousands of university students coming together to learn to read and teach the bible, and to do Christian life and ministry in the contexts we move in. As well as the national director of AFES, there is always some beast of a guest speaker who comes to unravel God’s word for us. That year it was Rory Shiner, and God used him well, to break down what can seem like a confusing and abstract concept.

So I was stoked when I heard that he was writing a book on the topic. Here’s the thing: One Forever is essentially those same NTE talks, put on paper, warts and all [note: that’s a nasty way of saying that even the jokes are the same]. If you’re a fan of his preaching, you’ll more than likely enjoy the book. If you were at NTE but lost your notes, this book is your solution. Continue reading

Video: Life of Pi: Theatrical Trailer by thelifeofpimovie

The Life of Pi by Yann Martel is one of my favourite books. Generally, film adaptations don’t make my happy gauge start pinging. When I heard the first whisperings of this movie, excitement was not the word you would use to describe my reaction. It seemed (and still seems) that it is a story that is impossible to tell visuall. That said, Martel’s own attitude towards it seems to be positive, and the cinematography and production looks amazingly good. I’m looking forward to this.

Excellency

“…it is only by the knowledge of the excellency of Christ’s Person that any know His sufficiency as a Mediator; for the latter depends upon, and arises from, the former. It is by seeing the excellency of Christ’s Person that the saints are made sensible of the preciousness of His blood, and it’s sufficiency to atone for sin…”

– Jonathan Edwards, The Religious Affections

This quote struck me; it is a powerful and discerning statement. John 1, Hebrews 1 and Colossians 1 spring to mind – passages that base their call to faith, repentance and sanctification upon the amazing glory of Christ. I think that as we think through our witness and our words, we need to dwell upon the greatness of Christ. The bible is clear; understanding the greatness of God is essential to a saving faith.

People will not be saved when they think little of Christ. Let us make much of our Lord.

Beowulf; to where their hearts took them

“Then they sailed, set their ship
Out on the waves, under the cliffs
Ready for what came they wound through the currents,
The seas beating at the sand, and were borne
In the lap of their shining ship, lined
With gleaming armor, going safely
In that oak-hard boat to where their hearts took them.”

This passage is from Beowulf, chapter 3, lines 210-216.
It is difficult to say why, but it resonates with me; it struck me as a beautiful, simple and strangely vivid. It’s just got this mysterious pull.

Beowulf is an epic poem (true to both meanings – genre and quality), and I have been greatly enjoying reading it. I am only half way through, but the world of heroes, treasure and monsters (as fantastical as that sounds) is enthralling.

The passage quoted above jumped out at me when I read it the night before last. It speaks of the hero, Beowulf, after hearing of the way that the Danes were troubled by the monster’s raids. He gathers a crew of warriors, and they set sail to deal with the problem.

I was surprised by the level of Christian ideas in Beowulf. Strength and fate are attributed to God; Beowulf and other heroes rely on God’s will being done as they fight. There are also other references, beyond your basic (i.e. generic) heaven and hell references; the monster Grendel was, like other demonic and impish creatures “Conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain, murderous creatures banished by God, punished forever by the crime of Abel’s death.”

The image of the Geats (Beowulf and crew) setting out in their armour, in their “oak-hard boat”, seeming calmly resigned but confident, creates this image of the Christian walk.

  • The armour, and their very purpose, implies a fight. I recently finished reading J C Ryle’s “Holiness” (highly recommended), and one of the greatest applications and insights I got was to not underestimate the fight of the faith- Paul talks about fighting the good fight, and we are to stand strong in Christ. These heroes know what it is to fight (even more particularly – to fight against demons or monsters who oppose God’s will). 
  • Part of this determinedness to fight is the warrior’s armour. In the good fight, we put on the Armour of God. There is later imagery of Beowulf being given a helmet that is strongly reminiscent of the “helmet of salvation.” I am sure this is not an intentional reference, but it is present in my mind.
  • The ship winds through the currents; it not direct, they couldn’t see exactly where they were going. At times, the Christian walk will seem all over the place; even in my 19 years there are times when you do seem to be winding all over the place as you try to follow God’s purpose.
  • Despite this, the warriors have utter confidence. They point their ship in the right direction and give it no more thought (the passage before this one also says this). Even though there are winding currents, which they experience, they do not worry or fight. They go calmly on.
  • Their trust is not misplaced; they arrive. The Christian has assurance that even through the tough, winding life of fighting the faith, he will arrive safely. He will be borne to his destination. 
  • I love this image for another reason; whilst they are equipped for the fight, it is not their strength that gets them through. They have their shining armour, but it is the guiding currents and the strength of their boat that makes them arrive. A Christian does not arrive at the goal on their own steam; Christ is all. It is he who justifies and sanctifies. In him we are utterly secure, just as the Geats were secure in the lap of their shining, oak-hard ship.
  • Above all, they are going to where their hearts take them. And that is the essence of the Christian life; the fight is important. We have assurance. It will sometimes be winding. But ultimately, we are secure and safe in Christ, being borne to our destination. As we read in God’s word, love is essential. Unelss we love God, we will not be saved. It is a love for the triune God that leads us to hate our sin, and draws us to follow and grow in him. Love for Christ is what gives us strength for the fight. Those who desire God will be borne safely, in Christ, to where their heart guides them.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Be watchful. Stand firm in the faith. Act like men. Be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.
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