Stories can be very effective in communicating key concepts even in a hostile environment. Jesus told parables that could be understood and applied in many ways depending on the condition of the hearer's heart. The Christian teacher would do well to collect stories that can illustrate and motivate. History and biography are particularly useful since they allow important voices from the past to state their conclusions about life rather than the teacher.
As one wag put it, “In the orchestra world, George Frideric Handel’s Messiah is just as much an annual Christmas tradition as eggnog and overworked shopping mall Santas.”
Handel’s magnum opus is one of the supreme wonders of human genius, especially if you keep in mind that the genius on display is not only Handel’s.
We’re so used to calling the work “Handel’s Messiah” that we fail to notice that he only wrote the music. And as good as the music is, what’s being said, or in this case, sung, is every bit as inspired and inspiring.
David Thompson represents the best of the early Canadian explorers. A strong Christian, he remained faithful to his wife and never sold alcohol to First Nations people. Thompson had seen so many First Nations people harmed by the liquor trade that he had acquired a strong aversion to such profiteering. When once forced to carry alcohol on his donkeys, he tied the ropes so loose that the barrels were smashed on the mountain rocks.
Born April 30, 1770 in Westminster, Middlesex England to Welsh parents, Thompson's father died when he was only two years old. His mother moved the family to London, changing their Welsh name ApThomas to the more easily spoken Thompson. When Thompson moved to Canada, he never again saw either his family or London. In his journal, he wrote of a "long and sad farewell to my noble, my sacred country, an exile for ever."
Gather a group of 12-year-old boys, and begin to lecture them about the importance of duty, honor, perseverance, and friendship, and it probably won’t be long before their eyes glaze over.
However, what if instead of lecturing you begin your lesson this way: “There once was a tiny creature called a Hobbit, whose name was Frodo. He had hairy feet and a magic ring, and whenever he put that ring on his finger, he’d disappear. But each time he put the ring on, the Ring exercised a dark power over him . . .”
A record 1.2 million visitors came to the giant retrospective of Van Gogh’s work in Amsterdam in 1990, which coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Dutch post-Impressionist’s death. What visitors did not see at that major exhibition were van Gogh’s Christian-themed paintings, which were left in the basement of the museum.
“None of the religious imagery was in the show. It was deliberately kept in the basement,” says William Havlicek, Ph. D , author of Van Gogh’s Untold Journey (Creative Storytellers). “In Western art there has been a move toward secularization through existential thinking,” he notes, which followed the disillusionment of many artists after two world wars.
Havlicek spent 15 years researching and studying more than 900 of van Gogh’s letters. His revealing book dispels many of the myths that surround the painter’s tumultuous life. “Vincent’s letters portray a very different story than the popular tale of the mad artist who cuts off his ear,” Havlicek notes. “What emerges instead is a story of selfless loyalty, the epitome of the Gospel’s sacred counsel—‘love one another.’”
It is Halloween again, and to be frank, I really don’t look forward to talking about it every year. At best, Halloween has become an excuse to ask total strangers for candy. At worst, it is a celebration of the mindless paganism our ancestors wisely turned their backs on.
So this year, I would like to turn your attention to the often-overlooked celebration that Halloween calls to mind. In case you have missed it before, the name Halloween is a shortening of All Hallow’s Eve and signifies the night before All Saints’ Day.
For centuries on All Saints’ Day the Church celebrated the lives of Christians who went before us. And rightly so: We can learn so much from those whom the author of Hebrews calls that great cloud of witnesses.