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Sermon Illustrations on imagination

Background

A Jar of Peanut Butter

Imagine a jar of peanut butter. When you do this, you’re creating, in your mind, something that doesn’t exist—even if you’re imagining the jar you actually have in your cupboard, you’re creating something new. There’s the actual jar of peanut butter, and then there is a separate thing in your mind: a representation of the jar, here and now, not where and when the physical thing actually is. The actual jar of peanut butter is made of plastic and peanut butter. 

The thing in your head, the “imagining,” is some pattern of neurons firing in your brain. Even when you use your imagination to remember something that actually happened to you, you’re creating a simulation of a time and place that no longer exists. This is the essence of imagination: the creation of ideas in your head, composed from ideas, beliefs, and memories.

Jim Davies, Imagination: The Science of Your Mind’s Greatest Power, Pegasus Books, 2019.

Stories

Practicing in Prison

Liu Chi Kung, who placed second to Van Cliburn in the 1948 Tchaikovsky competition, was imprisoned a year later during the Cultural Revolution in China. During the entire seven years he was held, he was denied the use of a piano. Soon after his release, however, he was back on tour. Critics wrote in astonishment that his musicianship was better than ever. “How did you do this?” a critic asked. “You had no chance to practice for seven years.”

“I did practice,” Liu replied. “Every day. I rehearsed every piece I have ever played, note by note, in my mind.”

Soundings, Vol. D, # 7, p. 23

Imagination Heightens Patience

In a study at UC Berkeley conducted by Adrianna Jenkins and Ming Hsu, it was discovered imagination may be the pathway needed to uncover patience. The study found when we imagine possible outcomes, it allows us to be more patient in a way that does not pull on our brain’s need to use willpower.

The technique has been dubbed “framing effects” where you provide yourself with different scenarios as to how options are presented to you. Even when the reward is identical, the way we frame them can spark imagination, which in turn produces a willingness to be more patient.

When Hsu told participants they could receive one hundred dollars tomorrow or $120 in thirty days, the researchers framed the option in what they called an “independent frame.” You could have this or that, and the option was an independent choice. Another way of giving the same reward was to provide a “sequence frame” to the option.

Researchers told participants they could have one hundred dollars tomorrow and zero dollars in thirty days, or zero dollars tomorrow and $120 in thirty days. When we provide our brain with a sequence, we have a greater ability to be patient. When we have an option to get up early or sleep in, the only thought process our brain typically engages in is what the immediate next consequence of not waking up will bring us.

We don’t think past that ten minutes of extra sleep. We use an independent frame. Get up now, or sleep in ten extra minutes. But what if we used a sequence to frame the option? We could sleep in ten extra minutes, or we could get up now which would give us ten minutes to make breakfast before leaving for work.

We typically don’t imagine, in that moment, what we could do with our ten extra minutes. We could meditate. We could eat. We could read. We could simply not feel the anxiety of rushing. The research indicates when we allow our brain a sequence of possibilities, it activates our ability to imagine what could be.

Taken from It’s Not Your Turn: What to Do While You’re Waiting for Your Breakthrough by Heather Thompson Day  Copyright (c) 2021 by Heather Thompson Day. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Studies

Imagination Heightens Patience

In a study at UC Berkeley conducted by Adrianna Jenkins and Ming Hsu, it was discovered imagination may be the pathway needed to uncover patience. The study found when we imagine possible outcomes, it allows us to be more patient in a way that does not pull on our brain’s need to use willpower.

The technique has been dubbed “framing effects” where you provide yourself with different scenarios as to how options are presented to you. Even when the reward is identical, the way we frame them can spark imagination, which in turn produces a willingness to be more patient.

When Hsu told participants they could receive one hundred dollars tomorrow or $120 in thirty days, the researchers framed the option in what they called an “independent frame.” You could have this or that, and the option was an independent choice. Another way of giving the same reward was to provide a “sequence frame” to the option.

Researchers told participants they could have one hundred dollars tomorrow and zero dollars in thirty days, or zero dollars tomorrow and $120 in thirty days. When we provide our brain with a sequence, we have a greater ability to be patient. When we have an option to get up early or sleep in, the only thought process our brain typically engages in is what the immediate next consequence of not waking up will bring us.

We don’t think past that ten minutes of extra sleep. We use an independent frame. Get up now, or sleep in ten extra minutes. But what if we used a sequence to frame the option? We could sleep in ten extra minutes, or we could get up now which would give us ten minutes to make breakfast before leaving for work.

We typically don’t imagine, in that moment, what we could do with our ten extra minutes. We could meditate. We could eat. We could read. We could simply not feel the anxiety of rushing. The research indicates when we allow our brain a sequence of possibilities, it activates our ability to imagine what could be.

Taken from It’s Not Your Turn: What to Do While You’re Waiting for Your Breakthrough by Heather Thompson Day  Copyright (c) 2021 by Heather Thompson Day. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Analogies

Common Things and Cracks in the Surface of Reality

The child became a man and the man became a preacher whose sermons were full of commonplace things: seeds and nets, coins and fishes, lilies of the field, and birds of the air. Wherever he was, he had a knack for looking around him and weaving what he saw into his sermons, whether it was sparrows for sale in the marketplace, laborers lining up for their pay, or a woman glimpsed through a doorway kneading her family’s bread…”

The kingdom of heaven is like this,” he said over and over again, comparing things they knew about with something they knew nothing about and all of the sudden what they knew had cracks in it, cracks they had never noticed before, through which they glimpsed bright and sometimes frightening new realities…Every created thing was fraught with divine possibility; wasn’t that what he was telling them? Every ho-hum detail of their days was a bread crumb leading them into the presence of God, if they would just pick up the trail and follow.

Barbara Brown Taylor

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Related Themes

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Awe

Beauty

Creation

Mystery

Wonder 

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