Friday, September 21, 2012

The ministry of storytelling

During the past couple weeks, I've been spending a lot of my alone time with paper and pen, writing letters to my friends and family who support the work that I'm doing here. While it seems like the easier and more efficient thing to do is type up a general letter and change the names to make each one "personal," I just felt the need to really connect with each individual and share from my heart about the things I think they would care most about. After all, these are people who are investing a lot in me, and I want to invest in them too. So, a letter that could probably take ten minutes to jot down takes me on average 30-45 minutes. I smile as I think about each person and pray for them and imagine having a cup of tea with them. And I tell them stories... stories about the loveable characters in my life, stories about God's miraculous provision, stories about conversations and opportunities both solemn and hilarious.

I've also spent more time on Skype and on the phone with people, and guess how those times are spent? That's right, telling stories! Again, part of my organizer's brain is tempted to think that I've been wasting a lot of time. After all, if you ask me what I did all morning, I'd have to say I made a couple phone calls, talked on Skype, texted, and wrote two letters. ...Really? In four hours that's all I accomplished?! Yes. But no... not really. None of it is a waste - in fact, I'm beginning to realize it is a ministry in itself.

See, I have always loved stories. I love to read and be read to; I love good movies, good blogs, and good songs that are authentic and meaningful. My closest friends can tell you how much I love to get comfortable and randomly faux-demand, "Tell me a story!" and just wait for the poor soul to start, like a queen commanding a jester to perform... and I love it even more if the "poor soul" jumps right in without hesitation with the classic phrase, "Once upon a time..." I revel in hearing and telling stories, because through stories we learn more about people and life and God's bigger picture.

In studying English, writing, and literature, I've learned that it is much more valuable, much more rich, to give the reader/listener a story than to give him an adjective. For example, what if I just told you that Peter Pan was a little boy who never grew up? That's much easier and more convenient than reading the book... but in reading the book, you learn who he really was based on the things he said and did, the way he acted and interacted, and you cheer for him and fall in love with him and feel sorry for him and are charmed by him in a way you can't explain, unless you tell his stories.

Take this idea and apply it to the greatest character of all time, Jesus. I can tell you that he is love and peace and hope, and I can lay out the "Roman Road," or the "ABCs of salvation," and while these are solid and time-efficient, I'm not so sure that they are soul-sufficient. How much better is it to take the time to share the chapters of my life with you; to recall the times I've fallen and been lifted up again by his mercy; to testify to his faithfulness and provision in the hardest times; to tell and retell and retell again the miracles he's done - how he has healed me, body and soul, and put a song in my heart and joy on my face and breath in my lungs and strength in my voice and wisdom in my mind. I think as you hear these stories, you would really understand his love and peace and hope in a way that goes beyond those small English words.

Being a storyteller is part of my ministry, and I think it's part of yours too. Tell what Jesus has done for you and in you and through you. Share it with everyone - it's a beautiful story that is meant to be known and passed on, and the Father will receive the glory every time.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Inscribed and Sealed for a Good Year!

This afternoon, our "Grafted Group" found our own way to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This was the fourth Jewish holiday we've celebrated together, and even though we are not Jewish by heritage or culture, we are thankful for the ways the Jewish feasts help us focus on the ways God has been faithful to us as people he has mercifully grafted into his family - an honor I am still so humbled by, that he would reach down and make a way for anyone to come to him and be called his children.

Themes in this feast were honey and sweet sangria wine... honey herb chicken, apples with honey, and a dish of cooked carrots, sweet potatoes, pineapple, and mandarin oranges was our meal - so savory and absolutely delicious! While we ate, we shared some of the highlights of this past year, which for me included a new house and community, renewed vision and strength for ministry, and getting to hold my newest nephew... so many new things, and I praise the Lord that he makes all things new, and that he renews his mercies for us day by day.

Wine, honey, and the promise of God from Micah 7

After reflecting, we also shared our hopes for this "new year" - things that we hope for that only God can accomplish - prayers answered, lives redeemed, community built, personal growth... miracles. Oh Lord, we long to see miracles this year.

The Grafted Group
We read some Psalms and worshipped through reflection - Psalm 118:5-9, Psalm 121, and Psalm 130.  Then, with the beautiful truth from Micah 7:18-19, we followed the holiday tradition by going down to the river to symbolically throw our sins to the depth of the sea. On the walk, this became a much more solemn and powerful time than any of us anticipated, as we picked up rocks as symbols of the sins we have held on to and needed to give to the Lord. After all, Jesus died for these things so we could be freed from them. As I prayed and reflected and plopped stones into the murky water of the St. Mary River, I realized it was at that bridge that my chair crossed its 200th mile... a marker I think will be pretty cool to remember.

Hit my 200th mile on the bridge over the river

A symbol to remind us
 Finally, we all had paper shofars (horns) to blow... In the Old Testament, it was blown to call community to gather and scatter, to call for God's rescue and victory, to rejoice and sacrifice and remember the Lord our God.

Blow the shofar for victory and surrender
What a beautiful, wonderful day! What a great beginning to a new year of living out the great adventure of knowing and walking with Jesus! Happy New Year! "And may you immediately be inscribed and sealed for a good year and a good and peaceful life!"