On Reading TELL IT SLANT

TellItSlant

“The care of words is urgent Christian work.”
—Eugene H. Peterson

It was through the writings of Madeleine L’Engle and her best friend, Luci Shaw, that I discovered another one of their contemporaries Eugene H. Peterson. Best known for authoring The Message Bible, Peterson boasts a knack for taking age-old language and thought, and translating them into contemporary terms. His book Tell It Slant follows suit.

Poet Emily Dickinson wrote, “Tell the truth but tell it slant,” which means to employ creativity and subtlety and ambiguity and “unhurried intimacies” to deepen our understanding of the many facets of life. Such is the inspiration behind Peterson’s book as he delves into the parables and prayers of Jesus Christ, and focuses on the various nuances of His teachings and conversations.

At the same time, through Tell It Slant, Peterson aims to “cultivate a sense of continuity between the prayers we offer to God and the conversations we have with the people we speak to and who speak to us. I want to nurture an awareness of the sanctity of words, the holy gift of language, regardless of whether it is directed vertically or horizontally. Just as Jesus did.”

As a writer by both trade and passion, I admire Peterson’s goal. And in reading Tell It Slant, I now count him among my “artistic ancestors,” those whose work will forever impact my own. I enjoyed every one of Tell It Slant‘s chapters, but I knew Peterson would leave a lasting impression on me in reading the introduction to a portion based on Luke 18:9-14:

It takes a storyteller to give us access to all that is going on—the swirling maelstrom of sound and silence, visible and invisible, in even the dowdiest of women, the dullest of men… 

Storytellers activate our imaginations to see and hear beneath the surface of life and involve us in the many dimensions of what is going on behind our backs or just around the corner. It takes a storyteller to reveal the beauty that dazzles like “shining from shook foil” (Gerard Manley Hopkins). 

Every time Jesus tells a story, the world of those who listen enlarges, understanding deepens, imaginations are energized. Without stories we end up with stereotypes—a flat earth with flat cardboard figures that have no texture or depth, no interior. 

Though my artistic explorations of late have focused on the visual, my ventures in writing and storytelling are the most constant way by which I exercise my creative muscle. And in Peterson’s words I find a new calling—even a personal prayer—related to those endeavors. May I continue to grow into a storyteller who values and demonstrates the sacred art of language, the beauty revealed through original insight and twist of phrase, and revulsion of the “flat.” May I dream to create that which “dazzles”!

 

The Advent Project 2018

baby-21990_1280It’s the first Sunday of Advent, an annual season of waiting for those of us who believe in the sacred origins of Christmas and believe in Jesus as Son of God and the sent Messiah.

I love this time of year, especially as a Minnesotan. Our surroundings take on a quiet, more expectant nature. No more rustle of leaves—the trees are bare. No more long days of summer—dim comes before dinner. Our homes take on a different, warm glow by firelight, candlelight, tree light.

I mentioned The Lent Project out of Biola University last spring. Now I’m excited to dig into The Advent Project, which “[t]hrough the layering of Scripture, prayers, and the arts, offers a wonderful opportunity for daily reflection, an occasion for us to pray with our eyes and ears as well as our hearts and minds.”

Like The Lent Project, The Advent Project weaves together personal expression, creative endeavors, and powerful stories of faith. Truly it’s the most beautiful experience I’ve encountered through a digital platform. I invite you to enjoy it with me as a special way to follow your artistic interests and scratch your creative itch. I invite you to join me in celebrating and welcoming the coming of Jesus!