Stories

Anyone who met my dad has a story about him. And he met a lot of people. He saw lots of people on a regular basis. But he also made friends with people he knew for a short time. He nearly always went away from the interaction with a story about the person’s life, a bit of news, or an odd connection he’d discover about something or someone they had in common. My dad was always searching for and collecting stories, connecting the dots.

(I sometimes wonder what stories people who had short encounters with him took with them, and what they shared with others. Like the guy outside Macy’s in Manhattan. Did he go to work and say, “I had the strangest conversation today with a country boy who was standing outside Macy’s while his wife and daughter shopped. He looked completely out of place but acted as if him being there and saying hi to people as they rushed by was absolutely normal.”)

For as much as he talked and shared stories, he listened well. He had absorbed a lot of information throughout his life. Like all of us, some of it was probably useless, but I was often surprised at how what I thought was a useless fact, brought up at just the right time, resonated with someone just enough to make a connection.

Maybe that was the point: connections. Dad rarely started a conversation out of the blue. He listened for springboards, bouncing off what someone else would say. People remember him because of his stories, but the stories stuck because he engaged people. He went along with the flow of the conversation, not trying to force it but simply using it to journey with someone, whether it was outside a department store in New York City, during biweekly treatments, or over coffee before the sun was up.

People were important to him. People often listened, because he listened to others. He collected stories, then wove them into others’ stories. If he was in a crowd with someone who seemed to be talking just to hear herself/himself, he wouldn’t engage. (In fact, you might even catch him rolling his eyes and moving his hands as if to say, “Blah, blah, blah. Will this chatter ever stop?”) Dad shared lots of words, but if the words themselves were the goal, he was out. If the interaction between two people was the goal, he was in.

Too often, we have an agenda to sharing our stories and knowledge. We want other people to know what we know. We want to share what’s going on in our lives. But the best way to do that is to listen to what’s going on with others. That’s when the dots begin to show up, the dots that are similar to our own, the dots we can connect.

And if we can’t connect the dots with others, what’s the point?

If we don’t connect the dots, it’s just a lot of “blah, blah, blah.”

The Story Behind The Photo

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

We browsed a photography studio. The owner and photographer chatted with us. When we asked him to choose any one of his photos and share the story behind it, he cocked his head, thought for a moment, then pointed to a photo of what looked like a church. It was a beautiful building and gorgeous photo. He shared the story of how he had been taking photos of a moose, when it started to rain. He decided to move on to another subject, choosing the church. He took several beautiful, serene photos then returned home.

That night, the steady rains got heavier, and the next day, water flooded down the mountainside right beside the church. He showed us another photo, taken a few days after the flood when he could return to the area. Full grown tree trunks were stacked like matchsticks beside the church, where a deep gulley had been cut through the earth. The two photos looked drastically different. The only thing in common seemed to be the church.

It was a great story. And a gorgeous photo…which we couldn’t afford. But we were grateful to hear the story and temporarily appreciate the photo.

The next day, we went for a drive. As we ascended higher into the mountains, obscured by clouds, snow began to gently fall. We were about a half an hour into our drive when we rounded a curve and gasped at St. Malo’s chapel ahead of us: the same church in the photo! We pulled over and I took several photos as the snow fell. What a treat to see, in reality, what we had seen on canvas the day before. What a treat to see the healing of the trees and other vegetation compared to the damage that had been done.

We couldn’t afford the original photo, but we got several of our own. We listened to the photographer’s story, then experienced our own. The story became richer with our own memories.

There is a story behind every photo—whether it’s a canvas or a virtual snapshot of our life experiences—and each story is personal. We will not live someone else’s story, but God connects our stories in surprising ways. Pay attention to the snapshots He’s providing today. They add beauty to your story.

The Sticky Mess

stickymessOne young woman was running late for the luncheon. She shared why after she arrived and caught her breath.

She “needed” to stop by for a fountain drink at the gas station. (Since one of my earliest blogs was about my “need” for fountain drinks, I quickly related to her story.) She was already running a bit late, so she quickly jumped into her car, put the drink in the console drink holder, and raced down the road.

It wasn’t long before she glanced down and noticed the double cup holder was brimming with soda. She quickly pulled over, removed the cup, and grabbed a beach towel from her backseat. She tried to soak up as much as she could in a hurry, and was curious as to why the cup was leaking. She hadn’t noticed any leaks when she picked it up except what she attributed to drips from the cup sitting in a pool of soda. But as she looked more closely, she saw a steady leak coming from the bottom of the cup…and discovered an earring stuck into it. She recognized the earring as her sister’s, who she promptly called with a gentle reminder that leaving earrings post up in the drink holder of the car probably wasn’t a good idea. She also pulled into another gas station, carried in both the leaking cup and the drenched towel and asked with her southern charm, “Do ya’ll give replacement cups for problems like this?”

It doesn’t take much to create leaks in our lives. We can get quite a distance down the road and have a mess without even noticing it. We get in such a hurry that we rush in and out of our routines, and we don’t pay attention to the little annoyances that can wreak havoc in our day.

What drains you?

We think we don’t have time to pay attention to all the details. When something happens to create a leak in our day, we can have a big mess before we even realize it. Then our day in which we didn’t think we had time to notice the details suddenly becomes even more urgent. We do what we can to mop up the mess, redo what we’ve done up to that point, and move on, yet time passes, we feel even more urgency, and we’ll have to commit even more time to thorough cleaning later.

Pause.

Take a look around at the details.

Notice.

Take a breath.

Enjoy.

You can’t prevent every small leak. You won’t notice every earring or other tiny object that has the potential to poke a hole and create a leak in your day. But you can slow down. You can choose to live from blessing to blessing instead of living from emergency to emergency.

You can replace being late with being right on time: God’s time. But you’ll need to seek and trust him through the process, giving him attention, trust, and glory through each moment.

Share Your Story

sharestoryA popular blogger shared, “We tell our stories to keep them alive.”

I immediately thought of Farm Days, the collection of childhood memories of growing up on the family farm in central Illinois. I had hoped to write it for years, because I saw the culture of small family farms dwindling, and I didn’t want future generations to lose out on the adventures I had experienced. I wanted to keep the stories alive.

But as I considered what the popular blogger said, I thought of how much bigger the statement is. Yes, we tell stories to keep them alive…especially the one that is life-giving.

For many years, what is now written in Scripture was passed along verbally. Even as it was read from early scrolls, only a few actually had access and read from the scrolls. Others listened and shared and discussed in their families and communities. They walked along the roads sharing the stories. The stories became part of them. They listened, absorbed, and lived the teachings out loud.

And these stories aren’t just made up stories and illustrations. They are real life and real truth, powerful enough to speak the voice of God and reveal the heart of God.

We tell Jesus’ story to keep others alive.

Whether or not we share the truth of God and his holy Word doesn’t add to or detract from it. The life-giving power is and always has been God’s.

In the beginning there was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made by him, and nothing was made without him. In him there was life, and that life was the light of all people. (John 1:1-4)

But just because we’re not the actual life-givers doesn’t exclude us from the power given to us. God gives us access to his power.

Jesus said to them, “The Father is the only One who has the authority to decide dates and times. These things are not for you to know. But when the Holy Spirit comes to you, you will receive power. You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world.” (Acts 1:7-8)

We share Jesus’ story because he’s told us to do so. He’s equipped us to do so. Sharing his story gives others’ the opportunity to experience his life-giving power.

Jesus answered, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give will never be thirsty. The water I give will become a spring of water gushing up inside that person, giving eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

What stories are you sharing? Whose stories are you sharing?

And the Winner of the Living Proof Live Springfield IL Ticket Is…

preparationThanks to everyone who contributed to this month’s posts in the Preparation series, and thanks to everyone who joined the conversation by commenting and considering how God is preparing you.

The winner of the FREE Living Proof Live Springfield IL ticket is runnergirl4jesus. Email me at Susan@PurePurpose.org and let me know if you’ll be able to make the October event in Springfield. And here’s the added surprise: You will receive TWO free tickets! You can take a friend! Congratulations!

As we wrap up the Preparation series, please remember God is always preparing you.

Since we have been made right with God by our faith, we have peace with God. This happened through our Lord Jesus Christ,who through our faith has brought us into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory. We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope.And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts. He gave us his love through the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)


Preparation: Michelle’s Story

preparationHow is God using your today to prepare and purpose your tomorrow?

Today’s guest post is written by Michelle Beckmier…

 

Have you ever heard something that you’ve heard time and time again, only this time it was put into “wow, I get that” terms?

Recently, one of my friends painted a word picture suggesting that, instead of the focusing on the negatives like cost of fuel and what that fuel production costs the earth, that we instead try and imagine that God fills up just like the fuel does the car.

Moments later, I found myself at the gas station.

So, I tried it. I stood outside instead of sitting in the vehicle. As the gallons rose on the pump filling my van up with fuel, I imagined God doing the same in my life. Standing over me when it’s cold and uncomfortable, pouring into me. As the tank seemed full, I tried to squeeze just a little more into the already full tank. And that’s when my “wow, I get that” sunk in.

God fills us up with everything we need. But it’s up to us top it off by squeezing just a few more minutes of quiet time in each day. It’s up to us to add just a few more ounces of grace to a conversation. It’s up to us to squeeze in just a little more understanding to a situation that we know only God truly understands. What if we focused on filling up with his word. What if we trusted Him and not on others or stuff to fill us up to the top so full that we started to run over with His grace?

What if…?

(This is the final post in the Preparation series, intended to help you look for, notice, and acknowledge God working in your life. On Monday, I’ll give away a free ticket to the Living Proof Live with Beth Moore event in Springfield, IL, October 25-26, 2013. All you have to do to qualify for the free ticket drawing is to comment on one or more blog posts throughout this series. Check back Monday! (If you live too far away to attend the event, I have an alternate giveaway and will then pass along the ticket to someone else.)

Preparation: Rhonda’s Story

preparationHow is God using your today to prepare and purpose your tomorrow?

Today’s guest post is written by Rhonda James…

Am I qualified for this?

For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11

Why is it so hard to believe this statement? Maybe it’s because we want to be in control. Or could it that it’s easy to overlook how God has his hand in every aspect of our lives?

I know this can be true for me.

For six years I served as the women’s Ministry Leader at my church. I love helping women connect and encouraging them to grow in their relationship with Christ. I felt blessed to serve in this role and I knew that God had placed me there, but I wanted more. I wanted to make a difference. Who hasn’t said that before? I wanted to be able to reach more women, to help teach them and lift them up as leaders in women’s ministry, but I wasn’t sure I was qualified. Who was I to lead others? I prayed for years for God to make a way and give me a purpose.

In the fall of 2011, I was home recuperating from hand surgery, and I had reached a very low point. I was feeling sorry for myself and truly doubting my capabilities. I didn’t feel well, couldn’t use my right hand, and honestly wasn’t sure if I would fully regain use of my hand after recovery. Just then, the phone rang and the conversation that followed changed my life.

“Are you sure you want me? I’m just a volunteer ministry leader. I’m not sure that I am qualified to train women to start a ministry! Okay, well I look forward to meeting everyone! Thank you!”

What just happened? Can I do this? This is so cool! God is amazing! A million things seemed to run through my mind. I had just been asked to be a part of a team of women that travels to churches and trains and encourages women in their ministry. This is what I had always wanted. I would finally have a chance to help make a difference in women’s lives on a larger scale. Was this really happening? God heard my prayers and knew my hearts deepest desires. While I was leading a ministry and believing that I was just a woman volunteering her time He was preparing me for greater things. When I was at my lowest point and filled with self-doubt He heard my cry and had a plan for my life.

It can be so easy to believe that if God doesn’t answer our prayers the moment we think they should be then He must not want that for us, or that He doesn’t care. Nothing could be further from the truth! God has a plan for us. Each one of us has a purpose, whether big or small, we are important to Him. How cool is that!

My dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15:58

How is God using your today to prepare and purpose your tomorrow?

RhondaRhonda serves as an Administrator at her church. She also has the privilege of serving with Group Publishing as a part of their Women’s Ministry Training Team. She lives on a small farm in Dexter, MI with her husband Dan and their two teenagers, Taylor and David. She loves to cook, garden, shop for purses, and writing on her blog  http://jamesfamilyfarm.weebly.com/

(The current Preparation series is intended to help you look for, notice, and acknowledge God working in your life. At the end of the month, I’ll give away a free ticket to the Living Proof Live with Beth Moore event in Springfield, IL, October 25-26, 2013. All you have to do to qualify for the free ticket drawing is to comment on one or more blog posts throughout the month of March. The ticket will be given away on April 1st (and it’s not an April Fools joke!). (If you live too far away to attend the event, I have an alternate giveaway and will then pass along the ticket to someone else.)