There’s a Story Right Under My Nose

I’m writing my first novel, he says and he says it like it really matters—like we aren’t standing in the middle of a cul de sac street in a suburb in West Virginia. Like my dog isn’t sniffing his feet and his aren’t barking at me through the window. 
Like a retired gentleman wearing a hat has nothing to be self-conscious about—he’s writing his first novel after all.
I bend my head and look closer at my neighbor. I see that his flat cap is made of a tight honey-colored straw weave—perfect for these hot days. The short bill of it sits angled cockily above his brow and he smiles easily. Don’t I already know this? Hasn’t he always waved heartily from the front porch when we walk by? How long has he lived here? How many years have I been walking this dog by his house? 
I take a step closer. 
It was Lucy Mae what drew him off the front porch. She saw a rabbit in his yard. We had a good laugh at her inept stalking attempts. And when he meets me in the driveway to have a look, I realize this is the closest we’ve ever been.
I don’t know his name.
I can’t remember how we got there, but he says it. 
I was a journalist for years. Now I’m writing my first novel
I hesitate only briefly but I know it’s what I’m supposed to do. I pick up the end of that dangling thread.
I take another step closer. 
Lucy Mae lulls in the shade of his rose bush.
Really? I say. I’m a writer too.
And it’s like someone has lit a fire under his skin he looks so happy. 
And he tells me about his time in the service—how he was stationed in Japan.
Imagine this light post is the island, he says. I was right here (he points to the finial) at the tippy top…
He tells me about his Japanese girlfriend and how they met, how rowdy the boys were, and how he rode a motorcycle everywhere. He played basketball and during his last month in, some scouts from BYU picked him up. We talk about God and he tells me about his Native American friends from BYU and how they taught him about reverence. He tells me about his time as a ski instructor at Sundance and how Robert Redford always told his wife she has nice legs. 
We talk for an hour on that street—Lucy Mae giving me the look and the sun sinking low behind the trees. 
He talks about California—living there a time—and how he worked at Paramount. He knew some big names but that doesn’t bother him.
I wasn’t about all that, he says. I was about experiencing things. I was about a story.
He tells me about a movie he just went to see.
They don’t make stories like that anymore, he sighs.
I tell him I have to go—have to pick up my kids at church. But neither one of us want this street talk to end. We’ve covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. Because that’s what word people do when they find another like them. It’s a soul connection. 
He walks a little ways with me up the street.  He’s ready to turn around but I have one more thing.
I don’t even know your name, I say.
He tells me his and I tell him mine and we clasp hands and smile into each other’s eyes and as I make my way up the street, heading back home, I feel happy.
That guy sure can tell a story.
::
This week’s memory verse:
Check previous Tuesday posts for prior verses.

For memory cards of the whole book of James visit this post. 



A Newborn Star and How Story Feeds

There is no moon this morning when I step outside and the sun has not yet made the long journey to the horizon. The sky is erubescent—millions of rubies lit from within. I think of the program we watched on the Hubble telescope the other night and wonder at all that is beyond earth’s swirling atmosphere. 
I don’t want to think about anything but you,” I tell the Creator One, as we begin our slow ascent out of the neighborhood. 
And it works for about two minutes. Then I start thinking about life, about the day, about things that need doing. I shake myself periodically and come back to our together place, but it is always the slow wander.
The stars above slowly become day-blind and I remember the Carina Nebula—one of the largest star forming regions in our skies and I imagine newborn stars blinking awake for the first time and almost feel the stellar winds blow in the wake of the genesis.
A couple weeks ago, my pastors started a sermon series on the parables of Jesus. He spoke in story—in parables, Mr. Pastor said–to offer us truth in a way that stirs imagination and wonder. Parable—that word that shares the Greek root parabolḗ with our mathematical term parabola. Remember the parabola from geometry class? The parabola is that section of a cone that is able to bring parallel rays of light to a single focus point–a fact capitalized on by telescope makers who use parabolic-shaped mirrors in their optical design. A parable can act in the same way: gathering light and magnifying—bringing close a focal point of truth through the integration of several points.
Mrs. Pastor talked about a painting she has in her den. She described the forest scene that captures her heart every time she gazes at it. 

“Folks, if I let it, that painting will draw me in.”
A parable does that too, she said—it paints a picture with words that invites me to place myself inside that story. And when I place myself there…the truth the parable points to inhabits my very being.
Luci Shaw calls it the baptized imagination. It’s a term she borrowed from C.S. Lewis. She says faith has been called a certain widening of the imagination. And isn’t this true? Where would my faith be if my imagination didn’t open my eyes to the hills filled with chariots of fire? (2 Kings 6:17).
Madeline L’Engle says, “Stories, no matter how simple, can be vehicles of truth; can be, in fact, icons. It’s no coincidence that Jesus taught almost entirely by telling stories, simple stories dealing with the stuff of life familiar to the Jews of his day. Stories are able to help us become more whole, to become Named. And naming is one of the impulses behind all art; to give a name to the cosmos we see despite all the chaos.”
Only we can know if a work of art is “Christian” she goes on to say. We can know only if it speaks within our own hearts, and leads us to living more deeply with Christ in God.
I think about these things as I run under invisible stars being born somewhere out there in the universe. I cannot see them, but my imagination allows me to picture what kind of beauty they might give to the world. And I wonder, as I come back to our together place—isn’t all of life art? And, what kind of story is my life telling? Like the parabola, does it point to truth?
Like a newborn star emerging from clouds of gas I move through the dark…running into the light.
Linking up with  Michelle today:
And Jen and the sisters: