Project Announcement: Finding Truth in The Story

In the preface to Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton states that the purpose of the book was

“to attempt an explanation, not of whether the Christian Faith can be believed, but of how he personally has come to believe it. It deals first with all the writer’s own solitary and sincere speculations… The writer regards it as amounting to a convincing creed. But if it is not that it is at least a repeated and surprising coincidence.”

In a similar fashion I’m going to attempt an explanation of how I personally ingest the stories of man. Consider writing for this also different essays even with the help of best custom writing service. This project will express my solitary and sincere speculations on the Christian themes found in various narratives.  In this way it will be a purely subjective effort. I suspect that it will amount to a convincing creed but if it doesn’t, it’ll at least reveal a repeated and surprising coincidence.

The Christian faith shapes how I see the world, which includes humanity’s creative efforts. In the words of C.S. Lewis,

“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen not only because I see it but because by it I see everything else.”

As a result, I read the words of men with Christological eyes. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading Luther or L’Amour. What Scripture has taught me norms what I read, that is, it sets the standard and defines the boundaries of truth to which everything else must conform. Some writers weave their words better than others. Some express the Christian truth better than others. And they do this with various levels of intentionality and obedience to or rebellion against the truth. Eugene Peterson says it like this,

“Words are the means by which the gospel is proclaimed and the stories told. But not all words tell stories or proclaim gospel. All our words have their origin in the Word that was in the beginning with God, the Word that was God, the Word that had made all things (John 1:1-3), but not all words maintain that connection, not all words honor that origin and nurture their relationship with the Source Word, the Creator Word.”

The Word he’s referring to is the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ. With that said this project will be an effort to purposefully look for words (stories) that maintain a connection with the Source Word (Jesus) that Christianity has confessed throughout history. To quote the second century Christian apologist, Justin Martyr,

“Whatever things were rightly said among all men, are the property of us Christians… For all the writers were able to see realities darkly through the sowing of the implanted word that was in them.”

I mean to find some of the things that have been rightly said among men and do what I can in the form of commentary to return the property to its rightful owner.

I’ll be looking for the Christian truth in the stories of mankind, in works of fiction (myths, legends, folklore, fairy tales, novels, etc.). I’ll be searching for glimpses of truth that point to the Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, or at the very least call to mind — my mind — a portion of the revealed wisdom of God. Some will certainly disagree with what I post. There will certainly be room for readers to quibble over my analysis. I’m not ever going to presume to know the mind of the human author. It’s irrelevant. My goal is to better see the connectivity between the words of man and the Word of God. It’s personal. After all, to quote Lewis again,

“Myth is… like manna; it is to each man a different dish and to each the dish he needs.”

I already have a habit of doing this (see my first post for example). It’s how I think. This project is merely a purposeful effort with the particular aim of honing this skill. As a pastor and as a writer, I want to expand my understanding of how to best keep my words connected to God’s Word so I can create a responsible subjective apologetic for the faith. It’s a personal exercise with consequences that I hope to use as I communicate with others in my various vocations, indeed to serve others in seeing the truth of God’s Word.

“As a dream while asleep can touch the depths of our being, could not the literature of wakefulness shower with light and supreme power the landscape of religious concern, and provide the Subjective attestation of Christian truth for which men long?”

John Warwick Montgomery asked that in Myth, Allegory and Gospel. He also asked,

“If the Faith can be found mirrored in the great literary productions of the time, would this not lead the secular reader to a new appreciation of that ‘Faith once delivered to the saints’?”

Great questions, both of them. And I believe the answer is yes. If the Source Word, the Incarnate Word — Jesus Christ — can be seen in the words of man, whether the human author intended the connection or not, nothing less than a thought provoking coincidence will be presented, if not more, that which amounts to a convincing creed. 

Joseph Campbell did similar work, however, with the opposite aim. He wrote in the preface to the 1949 edition of The Hero with a Thousand Faces,

“It is the purpose of the present book to uncover some of the truths disguised for us under the figures of religion and mythology by bringing together a multitude of not-too-difficult examples [myths and folktales] and letting the ancient meaning become apparent of itself.”

He goes on to say he wishes to let these examples speak for themselves. In other words his goal was to detach man’s words from God’s Word. Campbell hoped that comparing the stories of man would unite the people of the world, but as he says,

“not in the name of some ecclesiastical or political empire, but in the sense of human mutual understanding.”

His work, comparing the similarities of man’s stories, has been used to guide the world, if by no other way than its influence on creative minds, to see the Word Incarnate as just another one of humanity’s words, rather than as the what Peterson calls the Source Word. Campbell liked the saying found in the Vedas,

“Truth is one, the sages call it by many names.”

He used it to say,

“Therefore, it is necessary for men to understand, and be able to see, that through various symbols the same redemption is revealed.”

I beg to differ. There is one truth. That much is true. Therefore it’s necessary for the salvation of men that we understand, and be able to see, that all stories (myths, symbols, legends, fairy tales, novels, etc.) allude to, point to, and stem from the reality that redemption comes from knowing the one truth, namely, Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins.

Campbell searched mankind’s stories in an effort to see all words as equal, appearing “out of the activities of the human body and mind.” He saw them as “spontaneous productions of the psyche.” Christ became just another one of humanity’s myths. My goal is contrary to this, to search mankind’s stories in an effort to see all words as extending from the one true Word. I believe that the narratives the world produces are veiled reflections of the true Christian narrative and often times unwittingly so. Lewis’ words packed my bags for this journey,

“God is more than a god, not less; Christ is more than a Balder, not less. We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology. We must not be nervous about ‘parallels’ and ‘Pagan Christs’: they ought to be there–it would be a stumbling block if they weren’t. We must not, in false spirituality, withhold our imaginative welcome.”

There is one truth and all people are searching for it. It has been revealed to us in Scripture, which is all about the Word made flesh in the man, Jesus Christ.

“As myth transcends thought, Incarnation transcends myth. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens–at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle.” — C.S. Lewis

So, where to start? Where else, but the fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm?


Three reasons. First, because my daughter just finished reading Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales (published by Fall River) and it’ll be fun to share in these stories with her. I’ve never actually read them before and that seems to me to be a great travesty. Secondly, these stories are classics that have influenced and informed other creative works in my culture. And third, a collection of stories like Grimm’s fairy tales will work well, practically speaking, with a series of blog posts. One story per post.

There you have it. The only other thing to mention, for those who’re interested, is that I’ll be tagging all these posts with findingtruthinthestory (finding truth in the story). It’s time to bust open the book and get started. On to the The Frog-King. 

Posted on Categories Blog Post, Literature, Religious, UncategorizedTags announcement, apologetics, Brothers Grimm, c.s. lewis, Creator Word, Eugene H. Peterson, , Fall River, Fiction, findingtruthinthestory, Folklore, , God's Word, Grimm's Fairy Tales, Hero with a Thousand Faces, Incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, John Warwick Montgomery, Joseph Campbell, legend, literature, myth, Myth Allegory and Gospel, narrative, , orthodoxy, quotes, Source Word, story, subjective, Symbol, the Word, Vedas2 Comments on Project Announcement: Finding Truth in The Story

On the List

It’s my pleasure to find that I’ve been put on a list. Not just any list, but a list of living Lutheran novelists. Mary Jackquelyn Moerbe maintains a blog called Meet, Write, and Salutary at where she encourages Lutherans to write. And that she does. After all, I wouldn’t be writing this post if it wasn’t for what she’s done on her blog. So, way to go, Mary! Mission accomplished. But seriously though, even a quick survey of her blog reveals that it’s a great resource for those aspiring to the noble task of using words to communicate ideas.

Her About Me section says that Mary “is a deaconess–a theologically-trained mercy worker–in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. She loves words and is excited to encourage others to love and craft their words, even as we ponder and meditate the Word of God, made flesh in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

On her site you’ll find a page entitled: Lutheran Authors. On that page you’ll see a list of living Lutheran novelists, including yours truly. I consider myself privileged to be included on such a list and think having this resource available is a great idea because, as Mary points out,

“Denominational publishing houses can be great resources, but sometimes their focus on specific needs limits the publication of certain genres. Because of that, Lutheran authors of fiction, for example, can be very spread out.”

As a Lutheran novelist, I plan on using the list to expand my personal library as I read the work of my contemporaries. As of today I must confess that I’ve only read four authors on the list (not counting my own work, which I read all the time during the writing process) and two of them are the two non-fiction authors on the list. In descending order with the books of theirs that I’ve read:

Paul L. Maier, A Skeleton in God’s Closet; More than a Skeleton; Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World; The Very First Easter; The Very First Christmas; The Real Story of the Creation; First Christmas: The True and Unfamiliar Story in Words and Pictures.

Joshua Rothe, Stitched Crosses: Crusade (check out my review of this book here).

Christopher Thoma, Feeding the Lambs: A Worship Primer for Teachers of Children; The Angels’ Portion (currently reading).

Gene Edward Veith, The Spirituality of the Cross: The Way of the First Evangelicals; Modern Fascism: Liquidating the Judeo-Christian Worldview; Reading Between the Lines: A Christian Guide to Literature; State of the Arts: From Bezalel to Mapplethorpe; Postmodern Times: A Christian Guide to Contemporary Thought and Culture; Family Vocation: God’s Calling in Marriage, Parenting, and Childhood; A Place to Stand; The Soul of the Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe; Christianity in an Age of Terrorism; Christians in a .com World: Getting Connected Without Being Consumed.

These four authors speak volumes to the quality of work being produced by Lutheran authors today. Now on to reading more great novels! Thanks, Mary for making this easier for me to do.

Posted on Categories Literature, ReligiousTags Authors, Blog, books, Christopher Thoma, Fiction, Gene Edward Veith, Joshua Rothe, List, literature, Living, Lutherans, Mary Jacquelyn Moerbe, Meet Write and Salutary, Non-fiction, Novelists, novels, Paul L. Maier, WritersLeave a comment on On the List

All American Song: Turning Memories into Lyrics

I wrote All American Song (video below) as I reflected on the many adventures my family had experienced between the time we left our hometown in Wyoming and arrived in northern California (the State of Jefferson) seven years later.

Leaving our hometown was a life changing experience that afforded us many opportunities to see different parts of the country, meet great people, and mature in the faith. We set off to accomplish a singular goal and in the process we lived an amazing adventure. Each line of All American Song represents different chapters of a seven year long tale. The song uses broad strokes to deliver a canvas developed in details, it’s a fly-by of a season of our lives that ended with the achieving of a goal, but that will never truly end. From campfires to church choirs and all the other memories we’ve acquired God worked to root us in Him and has given us eyes to see life as an adventure that’s lived out in faith.

I began writing this song long before we moved to northern California. Our travels had just begun and we were living in Michigan when I was dabbling with the line, “Here’s to the campfires, headlights, and highway desires.” I liked the way the words flowed together but didn’t yet have enough content to work with to complete a song and so the line sat scribbled on a piece of paper in a drawer. It wasn’t until years later when we were living in NorCal that the song, as it is now, came fully to life. A member of one of the churches I was serving gave me a guitar. He didn’t realize it at the time but by doing so he resurrected an old interest and I got to work turning memories into lyrics. Little did I know when I wrote the closing words, “wherever we go a new journey’s set to begin to carry on with this all American song” that a new journey was set to begin. Months later I received a call to serve a church in Utah. My family’s all American song carries on.

We’re all carrying on with a song of some sort, a grand story penned in days, weeks, months, and years. If you’d like to share yours feel free to leave a comment on this post. I’d love to hear about it.

© Tyrel Bramwell, 2010 – 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of material on this website without express and written permission from this website’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tyrel Bramwell or with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Format VideoPosted on Categories Music, songwriting, Video, WritingTags acoustic, adventure, All American Song, bays, beaches, Black Hills, california, Campfires, church choirs, coming of age, Golden Gate, Grand Canyon, guitar, highway, I-80, Illinois, Indiana, journey, michigan, Mississippi, Music, Old Smoky, Oregon, Road sides, Rocky Mountains, singer-songwriter, singing, Song, State of Jefferson, travel, Wisconsin, Writing, WyomingLeave a comment on All American Song: Turning Memories into Lyrics

Vocations: Pastor and Writer

I recently started reading Eugene H. Peterson’s Under the Unpredictable Plant: An Exploration in Vocational Holiness. Several colleagues recommended I read it when I was at seminary, and then once I entered the ministry some caring parishioners gave me a copy and encouraged me to read it, sooner than later. So I’m reading it and being blessed with each turn of the page. The wisdom within this book, especially for a new pastor learning to navigate the rhythm and boundaries of his new vocation, has so far proven to be extremely valuable.

As I was reading I found that there existed an unpredictable similarity between the author and myself. He was a pastor and I was a pastor. That was expected. In fact, that was why I was reading the book, to learn information from a more experienced pastor that would help me maintain a healthy ministry. What I didn’t expect was to read such wonderful thoughts regarding my activity as a writer.

As I read the following (in chapter two: Escaping the Storm) he began to not only speak to my vocational interest as a pastor, but also as an aspiring writer.

“Somewhere along the way, as I searched out my origins and realized how they were coming into expression vocationally, I saw that alongside and intertwined with being a pastor I was also a writer. My vocation was bipolar. I do not know how I knew this so certainly, for it was to be many years before I was published, but the conviction deepened in me that writer was parallel with pastor in my vocation. Not in competition with it, the writer and the pastor fighting for equal time. Not in submission to it, the writer being a servant to the pastor, writing down his message so that others could read it. But partners, writer and pastor as vocational twins — feeling, looking, and acting much alike, but operating out of different bodies and each with its own integrity.”

Peterson goes on to discuss how he came to find a vocational mentor in Fyodor Dostoevsky, reading the entire corpus of his work and learning greatly from his writing. In the words of Peterson, after reading the New Testament over and over again in a Siberian prison camp,

“Instead of pursuing the anarchist and socialist utopias that were all the rage, [Dostoevsky] dug deep to the roots of the cross of Christ with all its absurdities and suffering… instead of pouring himself into the atheistic and social engineering endeavors, he spent the rest of his life creating characters who enter society and change it by means of holiness. He chose the way Christ entered and inaugurated the kingdom for his pattern.”

What a beautiful critique of a writer’s work! To be able to create characters who enter society and change it by means of holiness, characters who reflect the cruciform love of Christ… Oh man!

Peterson goes on to say that:

“Being a writer and being a pastor are virtually the same thing for me — an entrance into chaos, the mess of things, an then the slow mysterious work of making something out of it, something good, something blessed: poem, prayer, conversation, sermon, a sighting of grace, a recognition of love, a shaping of virtue… Writing is not a literary act but spiritual. And pastoring is not managing a religious business but a spiritual quest. 

This grand idea caused me to ponder my own writing process and how it related to my work in the ministry. Peterson was right. When I wrote The Gift and the Defender I molded the chaos in my mind into a readable tale that others could ingest and enjoy (I hope). Even composing this blog post is an example of such a process!

Having had originally gone the self-publishing route, I took Peterson’s thought one step further. Writing is not a task that one undergoes successfully by himself. Though the writing process involves a great deal of time sitting alone in front of the computer, it’s the interaction with people, experiencing life, and being inspired by others that brings about a good story. It’s the critique and suggestion from others (proof readers, editors, publishers, etc.) that builds the writer and his work up to produce a solid story worth reading.

Likewise, a pastor cannot successfully shepherd the flock that has been entrusted to him by isolating himself and the congregation in his care from others. Pastors can fall into the trap of thinking they can fulfill their responsibilities successfully apart from fellow pastors, mentors, the Church, even apart from God. This foolishness sets one up for failure.

Peterson then placed this brilliance into my brain bucket:

Prayer… is at the heart of both writing and pastoring. In writing, I am working with words; in pastoring, I am working with people. Not mere words or mere people, but words and people as carriers of spirit/Spirit. The moment words are used prayerlessly and people are treated prayerlessly, something essential begins to leak out of life.

Thinking about that statement in light of the incarnate Word, Jesus who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, blows my mind. If the rest of this post is gibberish it’s because I’m writing with a melted mind, reeling from profundity. Words and people, carriers of spirit and carriers of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit uses words to convey God’s Word to create faith in the hearts of people where He takes up residence. Words deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Word. Awesome! The prayerful use of words and interaction with people is essential to both vocations, indeed.

I haven’t finished reading Under the Unpredictable Plant. But even if the rest of the book is worthless, which I don’t imagine it will be, I value the idea that my vocation as a pastor runs parallel to my vocation as a writer. For the sake of my parishioners and for the sake of my readers I pray that the Lord will bless both.

Posted on Categories Blog Post, UncategorizedTags , Christianity, , Eugene H. Peterson, Fyodor Dostoevsky, , Jesus Christ, literature, Pastor, people, religious, Under the Unpredictable Plant, Vocation, Word, Words, WriterLeave a comment on Vocations: Pastor and Writer

The Satiation of Faith | Sermon

The Satiation of Faith (Hebrews 10:24-25).

I preached this sermon at Christ Lutheran Church on November 15, 2015.

Turning the Story

Last week I dove into yet another interest that revolves around the telling of stories. I ordered my first turntable. The piece of equipment I decided to cut my teeth on is the Audio Technica AT LP-120.

I didn’t grow up listening to vinyl and I feel like I’m kind of too Johnny-come-lately and a little out of the know to be all hipster about it. So why a turntable? My motivation is similar to what drives all my interests: the story.

By the time I got into music as a pre-teen CDs were in full swing and my elder counterparts, with their new found freedom as fully licensed drivers, were wondering why auto manufacturers were still pumping out cars with factory cassette players. It was the age of compact discs after all, and plastic jewel cases and hidden tracks.

That said, I wasn’t completely removed from the world of vinyl. Both my dad and my step-dad (I hate that term) had turntables atop their stereo stacks. That mysterious piece of equipment that was so special it was only used when a particular rich and warm sound was required, when a particular artist or album demanded to be played. The trophy piece was perfectly positioned upon a layered pedestal of audio components, reigning supreme over an assembly of precision instruments.

But that’s hardly the only memory I have of turntables. That’s merely the backdrop to the greater tale: my Pop’s oft repeated and reminiscent retelling of his younger days, days when he would put on a Pink Floyd album and listen to it from start to finish. He insisted, and still insists, that his peers didn’t put music on as social ambiance, but rather to actually listen to it (weird), to truly hear the music and absorb the words. Friends would gather together, plopping down on their been bags and sofas to listen to The Moody Blues weave their story across the vinyl grooves as the needle of the tone arm moved over the album. No one dared speak over such hypnotizing sounds, he said.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, the greatest take away from those memories is that listening to music was, once upon a time, about listening to a rich story. Music was (is) merely the narrative’s vehicle.

Now I don’t know if this was a common happening for all music lovers of the previous vinyl age, but it was true for my pop and it was his reason for listening to vinyl that I picked up on. I’m not an audiophile. I appreciate listening to music, I enjoy a good story, I’m intrigued by the various ways mankind finds to tell stories, and I’m fond of slowing life down and relishing the real.

Each black disc contains a story. Be it an individual song or the entire album played in one sitting, a story is being conveyed. The very act of playing music on vinyl is a story of sorts as the process itself involves physically engaging the medium, specific tools necessary to accomplish a desired goal, and setting aside time to hear the fruit of the labor. The album art conveys a story too. Collecting the particular records that I want is an engaging adventure unique unto itself, yet shared with others who undergo a similar endeavor. Stories of pursuit, collection, and experience. But most importantly the connection the hobby builds between generations, as my pop hands down his stories (and his collection) so that I may enjoy them and in so doing create similar gifts to hand down to my children. It’s a family story told in turn and in connection with others and I’m ready to access its treasures.

Posted on Categories Blog Post, Culture, Entertainment, MusicTags album, AT LP-120, Audio Technica, dad, lp, Moody Blues, Music, narrative, Pink Floyd, Pop, record player, records, Stereo, story, turn table, USB, vinylLeave a comment on Turning the Story

Blackline Racing

Since I moved from NorCal to the Salt Lake City area my Westy has been running like… well, actually it hasn’t been running. That’s the problem. At first it started dying every time I pulled to a stop (sign, light, for the little ol’ lady crossing the street). Then I parked it and out of frustration just let it sit in the garage. When I tried to start it up weeks later I was severely disappointed. Nothing. Then I remembered the name of a shop that the owner of LateNightAircooled in Chico, CA (he installed the rebuilt tranny right before the move) recommended: Blackline Racing. Long story short, I dropped the Bus off and by the end of the day the issue was solved.

The primary cause of the problem, according to the owner of the shop, was that the mass airflow sensor was adjusted too lean (14 clicks!). There were some other things contributing to poor engine operation as well. They installed new spark plugs, fully charged the battery, cleaned the cranking battery terminals and replaced the positive terminal end, tightened down the intake boots, and replaced bad timed port vacuum lines that had deteriorated.

Not only was the service amazing, the dude behind the wrench was cool. Blackline hosts the Salt City Air Coolers club meetings and he extended an invite as I left the shop. Good people, so it would seem.

Needless to say, I’m pretty stoked to have found a quality AC VW garage to work on my Westy.

God is Faithful One Hundred Percent | Sermon

God is Faithful One Hundred Percent (Mark 10:23-31).

I preached this sermon at Christ Lutheran Church on October 18, 2015.

Why Do You Come To Church? | Sermon

Why Do You Come To Church? (Mark 10:17-22).

I preached this sermon at Christ Lutheran Church on October 11, 2015.

Married with Children Offends Everyone | Sermon

Married with Children Offends Everyone (Mark 10:2-16).

I preached this sermon at Christ Lutheran Church on October 4, 2015.