IDENTIFY THE EXPECTATIONS AND LABELS THAT CRAMP YOUR SOUL.
Contemporary Christianity seems to be suffering from an epidemic of sameness. Uniformity. Monotony. Those trapped inside are often afraid to step beyond established norms and innovatively express themselves, or they simply don’t know how. And those on the outside of Christianity often see very little that attracts them. Yet God, out of the abundance of his own artistic force, made each one of us unique. Peculiar. Irreplaceable. So why so much pressure to conform?
Bandersnatch* explores this intersection of disillusionment and welcomes readers to a liberating journey, an odyssey of the soul. This process is an opportunity for fellow Christians who are feeling weary or stifled by established norms to find God in unconventional ways, as well as an invitation for people on the outside to reimagine what following the mystery of Christ could be like.
It is organized around four terms viewed through the life of Jesus: Avant-Garde, Alchemy, Anthropology, and Art. Each expression reveals a diverse facet of God’s unorthodox creativity planted within us, provides a fresh look at the divine nature, and offers a reframed collection of definitions by which to live.
Erika Morrison gives us permission to break free from the expectations and labels that cramp our souls. Then, through the lens of singularity, she encourages her readers to cultivate artful, holistic, contributing lives that matter to both heaven and earth.
*A BANDERSNATCH, WHILE MORE COMMONLY KNOWN AS THE WILD, FEROCIOUS, AND MYTHICAL CREATURE OF LEWIS CARROLL’S CREATION, IS ALSO A PERSON WITH UNCONVENTIONAL HABITS AND ATTITUDES.
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Erika Morrison is a writer and speaker, a visionary and life artist. With an unconventional and poetic approach to spirituality, she paints bold, prophetic portraits of Kingdom-come. Erika makes her home and invests her heart in the Yale University town of New Haven, Connecticut, along with her husband, Austin; their sons, Gabe, Seth, and Jude; and a female pit bull named Zeppelin.
Read an Excerpt
An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul
By Erika Morrison
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2015 Erika Morrison
All rights reserved.
NEW WOR[L]D ORDER
When the Virgin Mary pushed the crown of God's head into the hay, when Jesus came as a babe onto this orbiting globe, a new kingdom order was birthed along with his slippery skin, and his first squalling cry rewrote the human lexicon. The earth turned over, and all the systems and traditions of humankind went cattywampus with the entrance of the infant whose tiny shoulders suddenly carried the government of the world. Since that day two thousand and some odd years ago, the sincere worshipers who trail behind his dusty feet have been on the hunt to understand all the ways this one Christ-man changed the game.
And change the game he did, with all his talk of losing to gain, the meek inheriting the earth, and the last getting exalted as first. It seems that on the other side of Jesus, so many things and thoughts are the exact opposite of definitions already established in that day and age. Or at the very least, the definitions he imprinted are designed and emphasized to have more fullness, a different shape, or a new objective.
Taking a cue from my friend Johnny, I have begun referring to this redefining, fulfilling process as "crossing over." Crossing over is the antidote to the systems and traditions of humankind and simply means that a word or an idea or a value has made the journey from being defined by and rooted in the world to being defined by and rooted in Jesus — his ancient birth, life, and death on a cross. You might've noticed that I've already taken the liberty of "crossing over" the word bandersnatch.
One of the earliest words I can perceive Jesus crossing over was king. Many of his Jewish contemporaries were looking for a deliverer who would lead an army, a strong-armed king with a long-sweeping sword to rescue their race from centuries of oppression. But Jesus turned king upside-down when he poured his infinite body into infant's skin and landed in a peasant's feed trough next to the dung heaps of lowing cattle. His only scepter was a fistful of straw; his royal garment was a square of textile with a diaper-like shape. And as an adult, he was the king who went low, bent at the knees over a bowl of water with the feet of his followers between his fingers. He set aside the privileges of kingship and assumed the status of a slave. And with that redefining act, he imprinted the fabric of the universe with a previously unheard definition for royalty.
Jesus is the curtain that blows in the breeze between this world and the next, and getting ourselves as close as possible to his torn body will help us see and hear and taste and feel and know the living, spinning terms that give every little microscopic thing its brimming, abundant definition.
In other words, the Curtain is ripped, y'all. Heaven is just behind the cosmic tear. Christ's flesh is the gateway to understanding how the kingdom defines what it means to be a human living on this earth while bringing divine circumstances into the here and now. On this side of those folds of Jesus-cloth are the earth terms, and on the other side are the heaven terms, and here we are with our feet planted in the dirt but our arms stretching up through the cosmos.
The tension of all the terms — held in the human and divine paradox of Jesus Christ — is now being met in our bodies as we labor to pull the worlds together for a meeting of skin and celestial. A collision of realities, so to speak.
But Jesus is not in competition with the earth's terms; it's not necessary for the earth's terms to be wrong in order for Jesus' to be right or vice versa. This isn't an either-or ideological war, but rather a space to breathe in the free air of paradoxical both-and. What the earth offers just isn't the whole story. The earth only has one-half of the paradox and Jesus has the other, and although they often seem to contradict, I believe they are designed to live in tension to one another. Each gives its counterpart the integrity and brimming value of its full definition, its full truth.
So we keep asking and seeking and knocking and reaching because we are hungry to know the burgeoning scope of everything. Do you feel it too — the ache in your belly to know that truth? Do you find yourself continually asking and seeking and knocking and reaching because you are hungry to feast on bigger and better and crossed-over paradigms?
Maybe this thought has come into your thinking space before. Have you already walked through a life story or situation where what you'd always thought or been told didn't inform or encompass the totality of your reality anymore and you found your understanding for that thing "cross over" to the other side of Jesus?
It would've felt something like an aha moment, filled with wildness and wonder. In real time you would have seen your glasses being defogged and wiped clean and with the bright new view you might have sensed your molecules shifting to places they were born to be.
For me, this crossing-over process all started with the word bless, a word we are very familiar with in our society and faith culture, a word that generally conjures up feelings of goodness, happiness, and contentment, maybe even wealth, health, or success. Our society informs us that being blessed looks like a two-car garage, a white picket fence, two-point-five good-looking, healthy kids, and perhaps a dog or two. Our faith culture has entire congregations wrapped around the finger of prosperity under the guise of "God's blessing." And while both examples of bless may be accurate applications of the word, they certainly don't represent the entirety of the narrative.
When I was twenty-four, my Christian worldview was short on experience and shy on wisdom. I thought all those aforementioned surface things were exactly what it meant to be blessed. But while I had the "perfect" husband and three gorgeous kids in good condition, I wasn't entirely satisfied with our level of "blessing," especially when it came to finances. Our circumstances didn't allow for us to do things we dreamed to do or be the people we wanted to be. And it wasn't as if we were yearning for designer clothes and fancy cars. Many of our dreams had to do with kingdom goals like generosity with the poor and service projects for those in need. We just needed to prosper a little more first.
I decided that the best way to achieve my monetary goals was to pray this little prayer I had heard some church folk echoing in their sanctuaries. It was based on 1 Chronicles 4:10, and they were calling it the Prayer of Jabez. I only knew the gist of it to be, "Bless me, O God, and expand my territory." And because being a know-it-all was innate to my particular territory, I assumed I knew exactly what I was asking for when I beseeched for the blessing — good and happy and successful things (obviously and duh).
So I let slip from my lips those eight words a few times over, washed my hands, and thought to call it a day while I waited around for a blessing to fall from the sky. But what I didn't foresee was how that prayer would haunt me. And by haunt I mean that at all hours of daytime and through the night watch I found myself involuntarily motivated to echo the prayer over and over and over. There was no stopping the urge. Whenever I released those Jabez words, they would fill my belly back up and I would have to release them again and again and again:
"Bless me, O God, and expand my territory."
"Bless me, O God, and expand my territory."
"Bless me, O God, and expand my territory."
At the time I couldn't have told you why this small sentence dogged my steps and kept boomeranging into my prayers. These unctions are often a mystery of the Spirit, and I think it's safe to say that the Spirit seems to go where — and move how — she pleases. In this case I think the Spirit took me at one of the words I had given her long before: surrendered.
For all my naivete and pride, you see, I still had enough passion for Jesus to make me burn with hunger for him. Even as a little girl I can remember my ongoing confession to God being about how I was a willing and prostrate servant, and I would go wherever/do whatever/be whoever he needed me to. So in some ways the prayer I kept praying didn't surprise me; I trusted that I was being guided somewhere valuable to our trajectory.
"Bless me, O God, and expand my territory."
The repetitive prayer was hungry, urgent, deep like oceans, and just as wet with unsolicited weeping. It rolled over my hips as I danced the words out. I stopped questioning the propelling and just kept supplicating, the plea going out from my lungs. Seemingly, my existence hung on it.
"Bless me, O God, and expand my territory."
What I couldn't have known was that my redundant recitation of those few words was an actual invitation for Someone to mess me and my family up. It never crossed my mind that a blessing as defined by Christ's kingdom might not exclusively align with my own understanding of the word. Some might say it was just a coincidence that our whole lives fell apart alongside that certain and continuous prayer, but from this end of things I can taste the work of the holy Trinity in the unraveling of the life we were striving so hard to perfect.
What the Great Ones allowed during this period began with our marriage plunging headlong into a devastating crisis and continued with our work dropping out from under us. The resulting lack of income led to the eventual foreclosure of our home and the loss of a thirty-thousand-dollar investment. Add religious disillusionment and other personal issues, plus this dark thing plus that dirty thing, and faster than anyone could say "shenanigans," we were utterly wrecked — shattered like glass dropped on concrete. Our previously storm-free lives were being tossed by a raging tempest that thrashed our souls from all sides. I tell you, though, it was under those gale forces that the Spirit guided me back to Matthew 5, where the Jesus to whom I still managed to cling told his followers that they would discover themselves blessed when they were at the end of their ropes, when they'd lost everything dear to them, when they were persecuted and put down or thrown out. That with less of them and their stuff, there would be more of God and his embrace.
I read those words and pictured myself with a backpack-load of our weighty circumstances being transported to that old hillside where Jesus sat with a ring of his followers.
His eyes are on me while I search for a seat, but the only space I want is the empty square at his feet. "May I lie down at your feet, O Truth-Speaker? Am I close enough here to know you better? I'm watching your mouth move and listening to the words you tell in that deep rumble of yours, and what you say goes against most established understandings of every time period, including mine. Teach me. Unwarp my way of thinking. Carve new pathways in my brain. How can a person be blessed when she feels tortured and nailed, crushed like an eggshell and poured out empty? I mean, everything we thought we held dear has fallen to pieces around us, and from my perspective it doesn't feel like a blessing. It feels like we're parch-throated and scaly-skinned, clawing our way through life on our hands and knees in boiling hot desert sand."
I read the passage again and again as if I sat next to the calloused knees of Jesus. Then I read it again out loud to my husband, Austin, and there on the couch, the front-row seats of our high-seas affliction, we examined our lives in light of the Matthew 5 sentences I had just read. I remember how important it felt that I turned the lights off after the reading and examining so the room could go as black as we felt. We were broken from circumstances, broken from the crushing and gnawing against our powdery pilgrim bones.
"Bless me, O God, and expand my territory" had left us a bit mangled and groping blindly in the dark with the cry on our cheeks and the grinding in our guts. I remember how we melted into the cushions and used the last bit of energy to turn two palms each toward the ceiling, our way of raising a white f lag of surrender. We were so cracked that our souls were spilling out from our skin, and maybe that is why we could hear so well that night, because piercing through the black room like a shard of daylight were the words:
All this breaking is heaven's light shining on you because I want you to really know me.
All the unbearable things were heaven's light shining on us?
Then I remembered the way Jesus got busted up on the way to cross, how the whole sky went dark to watch his flesh fracture, then it turned to heaven's light again on the third day when he got put back together whole for the sake and salvation of the world.
We had been whispered to by Spirit-speak that heaven's gentle light was shining on us, and for the first time in a long time, I could see it. We both could see it, the pearly rays breaking through the raging storm clouds, and we latched onto and received that truth like famished folk at a banquet feast. We needed to know that there was purpose in our pain, that the Maker was on the move in our suffering. In a rush of finality we knew the joy of having nothing left. We were peeled and raw and reeling from the blessing of dangling from the frayed edges of one last Rope, only to find it was the sure and solid hand of God gripping our slipping fingers.
"You're all we have left" came out like an abandoned sigh, and we utterly meant it when we said it.
He truly was all we had left in that moment, and the reason for the repetitious "Bless me, O God, and expand my territory" became crystal clear. He was expanding our territory to include both realities — our own "laws" and his fulfillment of them. He was giving us the means and ability to filter our entire lives differently, showing us that we had built whole value systems and formulas of thinking on a decaying platform. It — and we — needed to crumble so he could help us remake ourselves on a stronger foundation. If everything hadn't fallen apart, nothing could have been put back together.
A new, crossed-over definition of blessing was born in our hearts that night alongside the one already there. We didn't get the blessing I thought we would receive when I prayed that prayer like our lives depended on it, but we got the blessing that our true lives depended on. We got exactly what I had prayed for. God took me at my word that I wanted us to be blessed and our territory to expand. He just did it on his terms and not mine. What he wanted to instill in our souls was the power and surprise of an alternative, opposite, backwards, seemingly ridiculous, upside-down, desystemized kingdom.
Blessed, we learned, wasn't a word we could understand by looking it up in the dictionary or reading about it in a book or watching how society strives to define it. Blessed, as Jesus illustrates it, is a quality earned while carrying a cross over our backs in the school of hard-knock living. The world says that blessed means wealth and happiness; Jesus says it can mean you've got nothing left but him. The world says this and it isn't wrong, but Jesus says that and he makes everything more right.
Our family's disastrous state of affairs began to resolve itself inside our new paradigm. Our ills didn't get fixed overnight, but seeing them as a divinely appointed apprenticeship to Jesus rather than just terrible choices and circumstances allowed us to engage differently with our griefs, intentionally seek redemption, and even celebrate the joy of being gifted with these paradigm-shifting experiences. Not a blessed thing was ever the same again — including the way I looked at words I thought I knew.
On the heels of my "bless" revolution, I started chasing the tail of every other commonplace term I could think of — love, joy, work, music, sweat, success, blood, beauty, family, mother, daughter, everything. I chased their tails and lassoed them in to look at them with this new, opposite lens. I made them walk with me to the other side of Jesus so I could understand them again for the first time. And one after another I watched them cross over to a new, richer, profoundly meaningful place.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I hope you will try it too — to look at what you think you know and let the Spirit and your God-given imagination take you beyond it. By subverting the standardized way of seeing things, you can enjoy the possibilities of taking everyday, ordinary, already-defined words and ideas and crossing them over to the other side of Jesus. Each section of this book will focus on words that I purposefully crossed over in order to unfold in front of you what I believe their larger definitions to be. So let's go with Jesus and his stretching, redefining, ridiculous, and opposite-making ways.
Excerpted from Bandersnatch by Erika Morrison. Copyright © 2015 Erika Morrison. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Why Bandersnatch?, xiii,
1. New Wor[l]d Order, 1,
2. Redefining Avant-Garde, 15,
3. [Re]learning to Dance, 29,
4. The Gift of Not, 40,
5. Unorthodox Parenting, 53,
6. Sacrament of Strange, 62,
7. Redefining Alchemy, 75,
8. You Are an Alchemist, 84,
9. The Alchemic Potential of Dirty Feet, 93,
10. Meeting Jesus at Froyo World, 102,
11. Where Was Somebody?, 111,
12. Redefining Anthropology, 121,
13. When Love Smells Like Seven Years of Unwashed Skin, 133,
14. You Made Me Look at You, 143,
15. Crack House Family, 153,
16. Cross-Dressers and Kumbayas, 163,
17. Redefining Art (Life As Art), 175,
18. Marriage As Art, 185,
19. Parenting As Art, 198,
20. Spirituality As Art, 208,
21. Do You Believe It?, 218,
About the Author, 235,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
My friend Erika Morrison is one of a kind. Earthy, funny, stubborn, passionate, highly intelligent and filled to the brim with Jesus-love. And I thank God for her! She has written a lovely, challenging, heartfelt book that is just like she is. Bandersnatch — An Invitation to Explore Your Unconventional Soul, is 230 pages of alliteration, story-telling, question-asking (and answering), and thought-provoking ideas. It takes time to read this book, time to absorb it properly, and those questions she asks will stick with you for a long time after you close the cover. Her basic premise is one I’ve been gently espousing here at my blog and in my work as a spiritual director: discover who you are, the one God loves, the one God designed, and become that person with your whole heart. Of course, Erika being Erika, she says it a whole lot better than that and she surrounds that central point with four lovely facets, each one offering a challenge to re-think who you are and how you live as a follower of Jesus. This is her 4-part “A” list: Avant-Garde, Alchemy, Anthropology, Art — and she delves into each one with her characteristic verve and insight, offering personal stories and asking soul-searching questions from all four compass points. She borrows her title from a character in Carroll’s, ‘Through the Looking Glass:’ “A bandersnatch is . . . a rather untamed and frightening beast with unpredictable habits and unconventional attitudes, he is also good because his fierceness, his troublemaking, his nuisance-bearing disposition is . . . submitted to a better cause — the dominion of the kind and good white queen.” (pg. xii) She boldly calls us to become like that bandersnatch — submitted to the dominion of the Kingdom, sold out to Jesus, and in touch with who we are, how we’re wired and how we might best bring that Kingdom into the lives we live, the worlds we inhabit, the people we meet, and the families we create. I would not call this book an easy read. But it is a good read, a challenging one and potentially, a life-changing one. I highly recommend it.
Bandersnatch is, simply put, a call to a more creative life. In order to accomplish this, author Erika Morrison shows her process beginning with the book’s title word and then, in following sections, goes into more detail highlighting four additional words: avant-garde, alchemy, anthropology and art. Ms. Morrison shows how to ‘verb’ each of these words and prompts the reader to do the same, but making them his or her own. Riding shotgun to Ms. Morrison is an exhilarating experience. Her words stream off the page like notes from a jazz virtuoso. Just being enveloped in her creative cloud is liberating in itself. The real power, though, is realized when her methods are applied to one’s own life. What I find so refreshing is that Ms. Morrison leads by example and does so without pretense. The reader is encouraged to participate in the ‘verbing’ and to see where it leads. There are no prescribed end points, no score sheets; just the invitation to adventure. Bandersnatch is a thin but potent text. It’s a quick read because the words flow on their own and gently nudge the reader to trust the current. This is a book I will revisit often, especially during those times when the muses are being coy or I just need a creative charge. Highly recommended. And, if you like audiobooks, the version for this work is outstanding. Narrator Xe Sands’ conversational rendering of Ms. Morrison’s text is one of the best I’ve heard.
Honestly, I didn't know what to expect or what to think when I first started reading Bandersnatch. Because I know the author and I are very different (I'm very pragmatic and black-and-white; she seems more free-spirited), I wondered if I would be able to relate to the content of this book. It seemed a little out of my comfort zone, a little out of my wheelhouse, so to speak. I loved the writing from the start - lyrical, yet accessible and inspired -- and the author's love for God was immediately apparent - she has a passion for God and for spreading the word of Jesus' Good News that is contagious - but still, I wondered if the book would speak to me or resonate with me on a personal level. Well let me tell you, it resonated big, and it's STILL speaking to me. I'm not quite finished, but I had to stop in the midst of the very last chapter to post this review. I want to let other pragmatic, black-and-white readers like me know that there is something here for you in this book. Take the leap and dive in! This book is doing someting to me -- opening my eyes, my spirit, my soul - making me think, and sit and stew (in a good way). I highly recommend Bandersnatch, even if you are pragmatic and practical like me.
I promise you won't be disappointed with this read. This book will challenge every fiber or your being, thought patterns, and the core of who you really are. It will require time, thought, a lot of tears, and prayer. It will be one of my forever reads on my nightstand alongside my Bible. Every word beautifully hand crafted with care, intense thought and prayer. I can almost feel the author crying in my arms as she struggles to truly find meaning to her soul and understand the chaos that separates us from this fulfillment. I have walked her very shoes on this journey and feel as though she was sitting in my prayer time and eaves dropping. It is a soul altering book that could have only been Holy Spirit breathed. I can only think of two other books I feel this way about. Hinds Feet in High Places and 1000 gifts. Theses type of books are rare in a superficial world where people strive and strain to build platforms. These kind of authors bend low on the platform of their knees to incline their ear to hear from the King whose footstool is this earth. It will require one to be honest with themselves and brave enough to admit they have missed the mark in all their striving and straining. It requires one to dig deep beneath surface answers into the depths of one's heart with Holy Spirit and becoming one with Him. I invite you the brave, the honest, the humble to come and join us on this bandersnatch journey of exploring what it really means to be you, hand crafted by the creator of the stars.
I love this book! Erika has a gift for writing and heart for this world that I am in awe of. She manages to penetrate deeply that part of you that wants to connect with the world a little less like how society wants you to and a lot more like how you were created to. Read this book if you want to be invited in where you know you already belong!
Bandersnatch illumines the truth that we are weird and wonderful and beautiful and completely unique artist souls and that our fully living into and out of those creations is the very essence of our life's work here on Earth. The world needs us to be avant-garde, to practice alchemy and to be anthropologists who "gaze at humanity with a love that is an eternity long and wide and high." Erika declares for us (because most of us don't believe it) that we are artists. We are made to create and the Kingdom of God is depending on our doing just that. "So take your molecules and your moments and your unprecedented mess and the intoxicated music of your life and make a masterpiece that reflects the truth. Because on the other side of Jesus, art is a revelation of the kingdom, a kingdom revealing God through billions of different kaleidoscopic expressions. Art, your art, is absolutely vital because your art is how Jesus is made known to the world." With life-giving Spirit wind, Bandersnatch kindles all the beauty and power that has remained hidden and afraid in the dark edges of your soul and breathes possibility and promise into all your longing. *I received an Advanced Reader's Copy in exchange for my review of this book.