Imagine ties directly in to the 2010/2011 Conference theme: Imagine.
The popular Women of Faith® Study Guide Series—renowned for its unique combination of personality and truth—offers fresh new messages in four new topical study guides. Women will grow in intimacy with God through this in-depth Bible study.
Each study guide, teeming with insights and quotes from the Women of Faith Conference speakers, provides 12 weeks of Bible study and a leader’s guide for small groups.
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IMAGINEGod Can Do More Than You Ever Dreamed
By Margaret Feinberg
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2010 Margaret Feinberg
All right reserved.
Chapter OneEmbrace Your Imagination
Do not quench your inspiration and your imagination. Vincent van Gogh
Do you remember when, as a child, you were able to transform a box of old clothes into a wardrobe fit for a royal family? Did you ever build forts and caves in the living room with an old quilt? Did you ever play games with friends pretending to be a teacher, a princess, or even a pilot? As children, all the wonderful places our imaginations took us were amazing. We explored new worlds, discovered buried treasure, and delighted in imaginary meals.
All too often, imagination fades or ceases to be a priority as we grow older. Settling into professions, raising families, and paying mortgages all have a way of distracting us from our sense of awe and wonder. How imaginative are you today? To get a glimpse, take the following quiz:
Embrace Your Imagination
1. Which type of books do you prefer to read?
A. Nonfiction. B. Adventure and fantasy. C. A good mix of both. 2. Which is your favorite color group?
A. Black, white, and neutral tones. B. Bright red, green, yellow, and blue. C. A blend of colors and neutrals. 3. When you tell a story, do you:
A. Tell the facts and just the facts? B. Make the story sound larger-than-life? C. Tell the story with enough detail to keep people listening? 4. When you look at clouds in the sky, do you see specific images (like faces or animals)?
A. Never. B. All the time. C. Sometimes. 5. How would you respond if a child woke you complaining about monsters under the bed?
A. Gently tell the child it was a bad dream and urge them back to bed. B. Spray monster repellent over and under the bed. C. Comfort the child, reminding him or her that monsters don't exist; even if they did, God is still more powerful. 6. How often do you have vivid dreams?
A. Zero to one time per week. B. Almost every night. C. Two to four times per week.
If you answered mostly As, you may have allowed your imagination to sit on the back burner too long; but it's never too late to reignite it! Go ahead and begin looking for opportunities to allow your imagination to simmer. Spend an afternoon looking at the clouds and search for fun images. Spend an evening playing games with a child. Look for opportunities to enter a child's (naturally creative) world. You'll be amazed how quickly your imagination comes to life.
If you answered mostly Bs, you have a vibrant, colorful imagination. You can be a source of encouragement to others who want to remember how to dream and live creatively. In daily life, you'll need to be careful that your imagination doesn't get in the way of relationships or your ability to accomplish tasks and fulfill commitments.
If you answered mostly Cs, your imagination is bubbling steadily in your life. You still allow it to come to life and it colors how you see the world. Go out of your way during the upcoming weeks to nurture your imagination, sharing what you learn with others.
1. Did you tend to answer mostly As, Bs, or Cs in the Embrace Your Imagination quiz? 2. When you were a child, what were some ways you used your imagination? What specific games did you like to play that involved using your imagination? 3. Think about the past week. Were there any situations that required you to use your imagination? If so, describe.
In John 13-17, we find the account of Jesus' last meal with His disciples before His death. As they began their meal, Jesus announced that one of the disciples would betray Him. The news shocked everyone. They could hardly believe what Jesus was saying. Then Jesus told Peter he would go so far as to deny knowing Christ. Jesus' words troubled the disciples, but He comforted them.
4. Read John 14:1-14. How did Jesus comfort His followers?
The word imagine means "to form a mental image of something not actually present to the senses."
5. Do you think the disciples tried to imagine the place Jesus was describing (vv. 2-3)? Why or why not? 6. How do you imagine the place Jesus was describing (vv. 2-3)? 7. How do you think Jesus' words in this passage comforted the disciples? 8. How does this passage comfort you?
The things God has in store for us are beyond our wildest imaginations.
Read Revelation 21:22-27. What does this passage reveal about heaven? What does this passage reveal about God's love for us? What are your expectations of heaven?
Take a simple household object (like a paper bag, a vase, or a telephone) and pass it among members of your group. Challenge each person to imagine a use for the object different from the one for which it was intended. A paper bag might become a mask or a piece of luggage; a vase might become a change collector or a hat; a telephone might become a pendant or a level. Be creative. Have fun. Don't forget to laugh!
Chapter TwoThe Beauty of Story
Even an old barn looks better with a fresh coat of paint.
What is your favorite children's story? Did you enjoy The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein or Heidi by Johanna Spyri? Did you find delight in Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown or Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss? Or are you more a fan of Charlotte's Web by E. B. White or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl?
Stories have a way of communicating truth in powerful and compelling ways. We may remember something we are told directly; but when that same information is given through story, it tends to stick with us in a more permanent way. A great story can change the way we think, act, and even the way we respond to others. Stories engage our imaginations and teach us lessons about ourselves, our world, and even our faith. Jesus regularly used stories to illustrate deep truths about God. Even in our modern world, we still use stories to teach lessons, provide insights, and capture people's hearts and imaginations.
Consider the following story: A great storm stranded a monkey on a deserted island. The small creature found a sheltered place on the land where he could wait for the storm to pass and the raging waters to calm. The monkey soon noticed fish swimming in the rough, storm-tossed sea near the island. They seemed to be struggling and in need of help. Being a kind monkey, he decided to help the fish. He found a tree limb that reached out above the seemingly troubled fish. Putting himself in great peril, he climbed out on the limb, reached down into the water, and scooped the fish out of the turbulent sea. He quickly returned to the place of his shelter and laid the fish on dry ground. For a few brief moments, the fish seemed excited; then they settled into a peaceful rest.
We are sometimes tempted to get involved in a situation without fully understanding all the details or the best way to make a positive difference in the lives of those involved. When we don't take the time to find out the real needs of others but rather serve them only on the basis of our own opinions (or worse, what makes us feel good), we can do more damage than good. This story catches the reader by surprise; it seems the monkey is doing good when he's really doing harm. The fish cannot survive on dry land.
Like this tale of the fish and the monkey, some stories make powerful points but do so subtly; others rely on gross exaggerations and silly comparisons. Still others use humor and puns. All these elements have a way of igniting our imaginations and helping us experience an idea, thought, or lesson from a different perspective.
1. What are some of your favorite children's stories? 2. What are some common characteristics shared by your favorite children's stories? 3. How do these common children's book characteristics differ from the characteristics of your book choices as an adult? What characteristics are the same? 4. Reread the story of the monkey and fish. What life lessons can you draw from this story? 5. Have you ever felt like the monkey in a life situation? The fish? Describe.
Jesus often used stories or parables to engage people's minds, hearts, and imaginations. The word parable comes from the Greek term parabole. The word describes a story that creates a stark contrast or illustration for the listener. Some parables simply use word pictures-images painted with words-while others use more complex analogy.
One of Jesus' parables relayed an important message directed toward religious leaders of the time.
6. Read Matthew 21:28-32. What is the stark contrast between the two sons? 7. Who did Jesus suggest the first son was like? Who did Jesus suggest the second son was like? 8. What elements of this story were probably shocking to the listeners? In your own spiritual life, to which of the two sons do you most easily relate? Why?
Stories are powerful tools for teaching spiritual lessons and illustrating truths. They invoke our imaginations and cause us to think differently.
Jesus used parables to describe profound truths about God and His kingdom. Read Matthew 13:44-45. What are the two things that represent the kingdom of heaven in this passage? What did the men do when they found the valuables? Why do you think they responded in this way to finding the treasures? How have you responded to God's presence in your life? What sacrifices have you made to grow in your relationship with God and know Him more? Has it been worth it? Why or why not?
Select one or two brief children's books that are popular today or were beloved during your childhood. Spend some time thinking about what makes each story so delightful. How do the stories engage your imagination? What valuable lessons do they teach?
Chapter ThreeThe Wonder of God
It is not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.
Have you ever noticed how people sometimes use words or phrases that don't mean anything at all? Or they add words to their expressions that, like, well, you know, make it harder to understand what they're really saying?
Place a check mark by all the expressions below you've heard people use during the last week:
___ To tell you the truth ___ In a perfect world ___ Seriously ___ I, personally ___ The reality is ___ Fairly unique ___ Yeah, no ___ Really ___ Same old ___ You know what I mean ___ It's a no-brainer ___ It is what it is ___ For crying out loud ___ Seriously ___ Blah, blah, blah ___ Yada, yada ___ Um, okay ___ I hate to say it, but
It's amazing how many phrases and words we use that have no real substance or have lost their meaning from overuse. For example, some people will call God "awesome," but they also use "awesome" to describe a triple cheeseburger, a sporty new car, or a Labrador puppy. While food, cars, and puppies are delightful in their own way, nothing is truly as awesome as our God. The one who fashioned the heavens and created our earth is beyond comprehension. His presence can't help but leave us in awe.
Each of us has the ability to rediscover the real wonder that comes with being a child of God. When we take time to examine God's character and learn who God is through Scripture, we can't help but stand in awe of His power, strength, wisdom, and grace. Even our imaginations will fail us when it comes to wrapping our minds around an infinite, all-powerful God.
1. Which words do you tend to overuse? 2. Which overused or empty words would you add to the list on page 17? 3. Like the word awesome, what are some words that describe God, but are overly used in other contexts? 4. Are there any words you use solely to describe God?
Job was a godly man who went through an intense period of suffering and loss. He was stripped of almost everything but managed to hold on to his faith in God. In Job 32-37, Elihu, one of Job's friends, described some of the wonders of God.
5. Read Job 37. Make a list in the space below of all the things mentioned in this passage that inspire wonder and awe of God. 6. Which of these wonders is most wondrous to you? 7. Job 37:22 says, "God comes in awesome majesty." How often do you take time to reflect on the majesty of God? 8. How does knowing more about God and His infinite ways strengthen your own faith journey?
God is almighty, powerful, and truly awesome. Reflecting on the wonder of who God is and all He has done strengthens our faith.
Our imaginations can't even begin to grasp all that God is doing in our lives. Read Isaiah 55:8-9. What is different between God's thoughts and our thoughts? What is different between God's ways and our ways? What comfort do you find in knowing God's ways are so much different from yours?
When was the last time you used your creative mind to solve a riddle? Consider the following two riddles. No. 1: A man went on a trip on Friday, stayed for two days, and returned on Friday. How is that possible? No. 2: An electric train is traveling south. The wind is from the northwest. In which direction would the smoke from the train be blowing? If you enjoyed these, consider checking out a book of riddles from your local library and reviewing a handful before the next session.
Chapter FourPutting Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes
Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard
Picture the ultimate hippie: long, shaggy hair; tie-dyed T-shirt; ripped jeans; and no shoes. This description certainly fits one college student of the 1960s. This young man wasn't particularly outspoken, but he was a typical hippie-turned-Jesus-freak. He found Jesus while attending classes.
One Sunday, he decided to visit a conservative church. Everyone was wearing their Sunday best-dressed to impress. When this young man walked in with his colorful, tie-dyed T-shirt, bare feet, and earthy vibe, everyone was caught off guard. The young man was so focused on finding a place to sit he didn't even notice the raised eyebrows he was getting from those in the pews. Unable to find an empty spot in a pew, he finally gave up and innocently took a seat-right on the floor in the center of the front aisle.
No one knew what to do about this strange visitor. The tension in the room was unmistakable. Even the minister was caught off guard by the sight of the man sitting in the middle of the aisle. Everyone sat in silence. Finally, an elderly church deacon walked forward and slowly approached the young man. Most of the congregation expected the young man to be reprimanded for his lack of respect. Yet, after the deacon made his way down the aisle to where the man sat, he plopped down next to him and they began to worship God together. The entire congregation gasped in disbelief. The minister told the congregation that even though they probably wouldn't remember what he taught that Sunday morning, they should never forget the stunning example of the elderly deacon and the hippie seated on the floor and worshipping together.
In each of our lives, there will be times we find ourselves in the role of the hippie and others when we play the part of the deacon. At times, we'll be the one who feels out of place-not sure exactly where we fit in and forced to make the best of the situation. At other times, we'll feel more like the deacon; we'll be the one with an opportunity to risk and include someone, making them feel comfortable even when those around us aren't so sure of our decision. In the end, love conquers all. As we use our imaginations and step out in faith to embrace those who are different, not only do we have an opportunity to grow in our own faith journeys, but we can also help others grow. We can bring peace-filled resolution to uncomfortable situations.
1. Imagine if the deacon had never made the journey down the aisle. How do you think the outcome of the young man's visit to the church would have been affected? 2. How do you think you would have responded had you been in that church that Sunday morning? Explain. 3. The hippie visitor was a shock to a conservative church in the 1960s. What kind of person would be shocking to your faith community? A man in a prison uniform with a guard? Someone who had not bathed for two weeks? Other?
4. What's your immediate reaction to these types of people and situations?
Excerpted from IMAGINE by Margaret Feinberg Copyright © 2010 by Margaret Feinberg. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Introduction: All in a Mind's Eye....................ix
1 Embrace Your Imagination....................3
2 The Beauty of Story....................11
3 The Wonder of God....................17
4 Putting Yourself in Someone Else's Shoes....................25
5 Aware of the Needs....................31
6 Unexpectedly Used by God....................37
7 Growing in Faith....................47
8 Tapping into His Power....................53
9 Stories of Great Faith....................61
10 Nothing Is Impossible for God....................69
11 Believing in the Impossible....................75
12 Called to the Impossible....................81
About the Author....................113