Storytelling

Before my last year of seminary begins in just a few weeks, I have made a commitment to read this book: Remember the Time…? The power & promise of family storytelling by Eileen Silva Kindig.  I have never heard of her, and it was only by chance that I found this book at Harvey Cedars Bible Camp on our spring seminary retreat back in May.  But I bought it immediately when I saw it, because I have been thinking about the power of stories a lot lately… how Jesus used them, how we can use them in preaching and teaching, how they impact me and how important they are to my children.  Heidi especially is big on stories lately. She wants to hear about the story of her birth, how her Daddy and I met and married, how Ben came into the world, how Grandma Joyce and Grandpa came to live with us and then how Grandma died.  She craves to hear family stories… it really is like an unquenchable thirst with her! So I have come to believe it was a God-moment that I happened to see this book and was able to purchase it.

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I am still early in my reading of it, but here are some key quotes that have caught my attention so far:

“I know that our stories, homely as they seem on the surface, are holy, uniting us as surely as blood and love and history… we’re praying in these moments.”

“The stories you tell as a family bind you close to one another, yet they give you wings to fly out confidently into the larger world. They teach you how the world works and where you belong in it. But most of all, they open the door to that holy and magnificent place where heaven and earth converge and time hangs in sweet suspension, if only for a moment… We tell stories because they save us.”

“Any story that affirms and redeems us is sacred. Sacred stories sweep away the stones, shove aside the boulders and clear a path through the dense sometimes confusing thicket of experience. They rekindle hope, bring us fully into the flow of life and remind us that God is on the journey with us.”

“We all need stories from our past. When you don’t know who you are, who your people are, where you come from or what is expected of you, it is tough to make good choices.”

“Children need many stories to tell them who they are, espeically the ones that show them where they belong in the cosmos– what it means to be born male, female, African-American, Asian, Irish, Italian, Christian, Jewish, Muslim. It is never enough to just know in an abstract way that they are any of these things. They need to feel it, expeirence it, know in their blood and bones what it means.”

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Fascinating! These are things I have known about stories intuitively, both from my own childhood and family of origin, but also now as a mother. I knew that stories were powerful in shaping identity and binding people together. I always knew they could crystalize our “knowing” of things– even our darkest and most frightening stories need to be told so that God can redeem them and redeem us through the telling of them.

Kindig has put beautiful words to describing what stories do for us as human beings. Amen, Ms. Kindig, Amen! I hope I can preserve and pass on our family stories for Heidi and Ben. I believe they need them, so that they can be anchored but also so that they can soar high with the wind!

A Story Worth Telling

This Sunday, I’m preaching a sermon on worship as a way of life, a LIFE-ORIENTATION as one author puts it (based on Romans 12:1-2).  What do our lives revolve around? Where do our loyalties lie? Toward what or whom are we turned?  The answers to these questions reveal what or whom we worship.

I’m using the following story as an illustration of a life that is devoted to God, a life of true worship. It took my breath away.

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A Botswanan woman, married with children, watched, in what must have been an agonizing mix of sorrow and anger, as her husband strayed from her. She wasn’t sure what exactly he did on all of those nights away from home. He never told her. Eventually he left for good.

Time passed. Her life as a mother and provider continued. Then she received news. Her husband was sick with AIDS and dying. He had found his way back to his parents home in a neighboring village, but when they learned what his illness was and how he had been infected, they refused to care for him. As committed Christians, they were ashamed of their son’s behavior and his disease. They would not help him. He was paying the price for his sin.

Also a committed follower of Jesus, this man’s wife made a different decision. She recalled their marriage vows. Her husband had betrayed those promises… he had cheated on her and probably also infected her with HIV.  She had every right to walk away and leave him to his miserable death. Every right. No one would blame her. But she had also made vows to him and before her God. Instead of turning away from her husband and abandoning him to the bitter agony he had earned by his own selfishness, she laid down her rights. In an extraordinary demonstration of grace, she took him back home. She cared for him– bathed him, fed him, held his hand as he died… she loved him.

This was true love of God and love of her nearest neighbor, though he had acted more like her enemy.

“Therefore, I urge you, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God– this is true worship.” Romans 12:1

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**This story, in a different form, can be found in the August 5th, 2008, issue of The Mennonite, a publication of the denomination Mennonite Church USA.**

Reflections

I haven’t posted anything new lately, except by commenting on some of the comments to my post “The Slaughtered Lamb.” That post certainly stirred up some responses! …for which I am glad. I have always intended this site to be a place of conversation starters… and so it has become.

Some reflections on the intense conversation surrounding Mark Driscoll and the diversity within our Christian faith:

It is exceedingly difficult to find the unity within diversity that we all long for… mostly because we’re so human, so frail and prone to pride.  It’s also frightening to talk intensely and directly about some of these issues. They cut to the heart of our identity and belief systems. But these conversations are worth having, and unity is worth striving for, even when it makes us uncomfortable.

One of my friends was pushing me in the area of preaching, and I am now sifting through some of my principles regarding preaching and how it should be done. This is interesting and stimulating. In an age of such diversity within Christianity, how would I approach a sermon on, say, “following the call of Christ to love our enemies”?? Do I preach squarely from where my tradition stands on that issue, or do I study and respect the diversity of beliefs within Christianity and present all sides in my sermon, inviting the congregation to become learners and disciples, discovering their own beliefs, even as I have? Hmmmmm….

The issue of gender— This is such a difficult issue, not only because it touches on identity and calling, but also because it brings up the issue of biblical interpretation.  For many, it is viewed as the ‘slippery slope’ that leads to liberalism in our churches… scripture becomes ‘take it or leave it as you please’…  Sometime soon, I want to revisit one of my earliest posts on my own struggle with this issue, but for now, I will say this:  If I am willing to consider all sides of the issue in a sermon on Christian peacemaking, is there an evangelical preacher who would consider delivering a sermon on this issue, a sermon that would take into account a diversity of interpretations of the Pauline, Genesis and Gospel passages, representing fairly and even-handedly all sides, then inviting the listeners to make their own decisions?  If not, why not?

So, okay, I’m good at opening cans of worms!! This much I have realized. Let me have it! Let’s hear what you have to say… Ready, set, GO!