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Good Storytellers Use “the Voice”

“LITTLE PIG, LITTLE PIG, LET ME COME IN!”
There, did you read that in a big, deep voice? Reverend Miner says, “I hope so, or you’re not a very good storyteller.” Because you want the child to get the message: when danger comes knocking, don’t let it in. Isn’t it funny how children’s fiction speaks so much truth, in a voice that sounds very much like our own?

We are blessed at Floris with preachers who are good storytellers. Barbara  Miner went on to share the stories of no shower but my family loves me anyway, of Timber the golden retriever who lives to be with Becky, of famous people who have undermined our national trust, of a groom and bride who sob with 100% joy. Way to tug at our heartstrings, Barbara.

But story, well told, does that. It engages us and then unleashes the “aha!” But, more than that, it stays with us in a way that lectures and exhortations and, well, regular preaching, doesn’t. I love hearing a good story on Sunday, don’t you? Partly because I’m still chewing on it on a Monday morning. I guess I am a “morning after” person.

Now, true disclosure, I take notes during worship. I’ve done it for years, through the tenure of a number of pastors at several churches. I hope the folks sitting near me don’t find it distracting. They notes are for my Monday. They are actually an act of worship for me. I come on Sunday expecting a gift, so I bring my pen. And I am never disappointed.

Oh, the notes I take don’t look very much like this blog, because everything looks different on Monday morning in the light cast by worship. But today I am feeling better about this because Barbara has reminded us that it’s not about the words, it’s about how you say them.

I need to go back and read some of those children’s stories we still have on our kids’ shelves. That’s what they tell you to do if you want to write your own story…read what you’re trying to write. And, as it happens, I am in the middle of trying to write a children’s story.  It’s fictional, but the truth keeps getting in the way. Makes it hard to write, but I hope it will make it easier to read.

But, isn’t it like God to come to my rescue just as I am threatening to take myself too seriously? This morning, I am paging through gift catalogs on my kitchen counter – yes, that time is upon us – and open to a page of t-shirts with silly sayings. Somehow I gravitate to the page for scrabble players, I guess. One of the shirts reads:

“Let’s eat Grandma.
Let’s eat, Grandma.
Commas save lives.”
For a storyteller the message may be all in how you say it, but when you write it down, punctuation is NOT optional. Commas save lives!

If you just chuckled, too, perhaps you are a worship service note-taker who finds God on a Monday morning, too. Take it from me, the accidental blogger, you can trust Him. Remember, it’s all in how they READ it.

Cradled in Community

News travels fast. At 2:24pm on Tuesday afternoon my daughter, who lives in DC, messaged me asking, “Do you know what’s happening on Point Rider Lane?” She had seen a news link, shared on Facebook by a friend from her middle school soccer team who was concerned about the helicopters flying over her house. I didn’t have an immediate answer, but soon I would. What does one do with news like this? As our Pastor put it yesterday, “the worst possible news.”

We do what people do in hard times. We gather and share the news.

Yesterday, I pulled into the church parking lot past an oddly marked vehicle. In the driver’s seat sat a man furiously typing on his laptop. I thought this odd because, as usual, I was arriving only minutes before the start of the service. Why wasn’t the man getting out and coming in? When I walked by, the ads printed on the side of his car told me why. He was from the media, probably on deadline to submit this morning’s story.

Floris UMC worship was news. And the news outlets were reporting it.

I felt a little odd, then, walking into the service. Wasn’t sure what I would find there. But I was greeted, as usual. Welcomed, as usual. Seated, as usual, although the sanctuary seemed a bit more full than usual. The sermon title had changed, but we were still welcoming new members and handing out Bibles to our 3rd graders. Just like usual.  Then we sang our opening hymn, so familiar, so fitting: I Love to Tell the Story.

It felt a bit ironic but so fitting. Today, an old, old story was breaking news.

We are a community suffering through tragedy. And so we come. To be comforted and to connect. To ask questions with no answers. We bring our grief and our sorrow. But we come. Tom Berlin’s wonderful heart for all of us was poured out in his words.

Tom brought to mind a message I heard this summer delivered by Rob Fuquay, a pastor in NC. The theme was the “I am” statements of Jesus. Rob was teaching from John 11:25-26. Jesus said to Martha whose brother Lazarus lay in the tomb, “I am the resurrection and the life…Do you believe this?” Rob asked us if we could put our trust in this. Rest in this. Because the resurrection was not just for those who have died but for the many left behind, the people who have to live with death. Who carry grief.

Tom cautioned us that “grief carried casually can easily convert to anger.” So, so true, Tom. Thank you. But grief, cradled carefully, the way our church has helped us carry it this week, can be made alive again. Life, not resuscitated, but resurrected.

As the song goes…

I love to tell the story of unseen things above,
of Jesus and his glory, of Jesus and his love.
I love to tell the story, because I know ’tis true;
It satisfies my longings as nothing else can do.
 
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.
 
I love to tell the story, for those who know it best
seem hungering and thirsting to hear it like the rest.
And when, in scenes of glory, I sing the new, new song,
’twill be the old old, story that I have loved so long.
 
I love to tell the story, ’twill be my theme in glory,
to tell the old, old story of Jesus and his love.

What a privilege we have as keepers of the whole story… of Jesus and His love.

Frederick Buechner, “The power of the Resurrection means, the worst thing is not the last thing.”

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