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What can one voice do? write the middle chapters

I am sensing frustration and dissent out there. People who see that change is needed and want to make it. But they’re just one person. One voice.

USA.gov (tagline, “government made easy”) reads,

Due to a lapse in funding, the U.S. federal government has shut down. Call 1-800-FED-INFO (1-800-333-4636) for answers to government questions.

I could be talking about our perceptions of any number of woeful circumstances that beleaguer our society, our country, our community or our world today. People see what seems a better way, but they can’t get the attention of people who could actually bring the change. Or, even if they could, they don’t have the influence to convince them that change is necessary and/or good and/or worth the time and/or money it would take to impart it.

People grumble. But I am not faulting these folks. Their hands, figuratively and perhaps nearly literally (perhaps really literally) are tied.

So I appreciate “soccermom#6” who honestly said (in a comment on my blog post to Soccerwire.com) that what I said was all well and good, but her son’s coach was not doing any of that (healthy warm ups and core strengthening which I had recommended) so “where were my follow up articles?” on exactly the program her son should be engaging in because she would need to do that with him at home.

I loved her heart for her son. Regardless of circumstances, she was going to do the right thing by the one for whom she could make a difference.

Perhaps that’s where most of us are. In a position to make things right for the one right before us. Or the people nearest to us. The ones we see who are hurting or who need helping.

I am always struck in my travels by how many of these people are among us. Oh, they look like the rest of us. They blend in. But once we get to talking, they share a story of hardship or struggle. They are under pressure or a deadline or lost. They’re feeling compressed or forced to comply or to wait by people, rules or things they didn’t create or ask for. They’ve landed in a place where their voice doesn’t count for much. But it’s still there. Because it’s speaking to me.

That’s when I tell them my name and they tell me theirs. And that’s the difference between blog commenters and face to face encounters, the name sharing. Online, I know you as a user name. (ironic, the term) In person, I know you as a face. And a story.

And perhaps that’s all that one voice can do is learn the others’ name. Swap a few stories. Get a sense of where the other is in the midst of things and engage them there. Find out how it feels to be them.

They’ll probably never know what a powerful message they are to me, a writer trying to pen the middle chapters of a story. Oh, the beginning is exciting. It’s always easy to jump in. At the end you see the finish line so you push toward if. But the middle bits, those are the hardest. You have to carry the message across the hardship without any ending in sight.

And that’s where we find ourselves in these days. In the middle chapters. Toiling. Fumbling. Speaking and listening. Trying to discover what action will take us from inception and idea to recovery and resolution. It’s a thankless job. It requires holding firmly with right and with left, no matter how far. No letting go.

I can imagine the Cross of Christ to be just such a place. What if we all gathered there and asked with one voice, “Please, show us the way to the final chapter”?

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.

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