The Story-tellers

When I was a little girl I went to a story-telling church. They did other things as well, like waved hankies at the hanky song, and played timbrels with all those lovely ribbons, and had bibles with stick-man pictures in them that a smiley man handed out at the door, and collected back up again at the door afterwards. There was a cross, and a table thing with a red velvet tablecloth on it, and probably some preaching as well, but I didn’t have much time for that kind of grown-up stuff. I’d stuff some coloured pencils in my little shoulder bag, and a notebook, so I could draw pictures during the boring bits.

One thing that bemused me about my church though, more so than the timbrels and the fact that the grown-ups had pictures in their bibles, was the Storytelling Bit. I didn’t know if all churches had a Storytelling Bit, but mine did. People stood up in their chairs, and occasionally the preacher would invite them to come up the front and stand near the red velvet table, and they’d say all this random stuff. I always listened to the stories. I liked stories.

Sometimes though…sometimes I swear those people had no idea how to tell a story. They’d get up there and they’d say all about their drinking, and how hard it was to stop, and then their kids stopped calling, and yada yada, and I’d get to thinking “this person has no clue what’s interesting and what’s not”, and then they’d finish with a “but Jesus saved me”, and we’d all have to clap and stuff, even if the story wasn’t very good. A lot of them weren’t. “I couldn’t find my keys, and then I moved my hat and there they were.” Where’s the tension in that? Where’s the drama? “My cat died, and then my aunt gave me another one.” Yeah okay, so I cared about that one. “I used to beat my wife and then this one day I met Brother Peter here and…” Oh boy. Ho hum. Don’t you people know anything about storytelling? Still, everybody clapped like it was the best thing they’d ever heard, and patted the storytellers on the back when they sat down.

I must have been about eight years old when I decided I’d had enough; decided that I could tell a story every bit as well as these people, and maybe I was old enough to put MY hand up in church too. I knew I could do it. I could add life! Drama! Adventure! Mystery! Fantasy! Imagination! And so I did. I knew these stories had to be in the first person (like, you had to say “I did…” not “she did…”, and I had this neat little tie-in about that dude in the bible who had a dream of a ladder with angels going up to Heaven, so it was a good church story even. I imagined it all up as I went, about me waking up in the night and going outside, maybe sleepwalking, and seeing that gate out the side of our house with angels doing loop-the-loops, and how then I realised I wasn’t walking, and that maybe I could do what the angels were doing too, and…

I didn’t get a big clap like I’d expected at the end, when I sat down, which surprised me. I was so proud. I thought maybe they hadn’t liked the ending, or that I hadn’t resolved it as well as I could have. The minister said thank you in a kind of tight voice, and asked if anybody else had anything they wanted to share. I kind of wondered if I’d goofed it, or missed the mark somewhere. I didn’t ever tell stories in church after that, I just clapped politely when I needed to, and went back to my colouring pencils and my drawing.

Tomorrow is Good Friday. That makes today, in the traditional church, Maundy Thursday, and the beginning of the Easter period. Or something like that. I’m sure I’ll be corrected. I love Easter. It reminds me of all the stories, the real stories, of my own life, of the stories I really could raise my hand in church for and say “…but Jesus saved me!”. It’s a time to reflect on what we do it for, the whole chocolate egg and four-day-weekend thing. The whole of Easter, the whole point of the Jesus thing really, is found in storytelling. Jesus told stories, and then, after his death and resurrection, his disciples told stories. That’s why I’m sitting here today, because of those stories.

Happy Easter, my friends. If you find yourself in church this weekend, listen out for the storytellers.

P.S. My friend Patti has been blogging her way through the weeks leading up to Easter by unpacking some of the stuff in the Bible. Her insights are fascinating, and she knows a lot of the historical/cultural details that I’ve not known before. Her blogs are worth a read. In one of her recent comments said this: “The disciples and the lives they led after the resurrection are the the best evidence that it did indeed happen. Before the resurrection, they were hiding away. Afterward, they were fearless, and eleven of them faced martyrdom. Would you do that for a man who came, filled you will hope and promises, and then just died. No! The disciples were changed when they saw their risen Lord.” I’d not thought of it like that before. These are stories that, unlike my little eight-year-old offering, make a difference.

 

 

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When The Bad Stuff Is Good For You

So I’m sitting in church yesterday, right, and…

Actually, let me backtrack a minute. First of all let me say a huge THANK YOU to all the dear, dear friends who called/emailed/texted/messaged me the other day after Thursday’s post. Your love and support was overwhelming, and touched me deeply. Love you all.

And I am okay. Really. Some days you go through stuff. And sometimes, if you’re lucky, instead of just taking you out, those days end up teaching you something about yourself. And that’s what happened.

So I’m sitting in church yesterday, right, and I’m making a conscious decision to focus on what’s happening right there and not to think about what’s going on in my head (which is kind of like a toddler sitting with his hands over his ears yelling “LALALALALA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”, except in a less obvious form), and I’m listening away to what the pastor is preaching, but then all of a sudden I start really listening. He said (and I can’t quote, because although I was taking notes I wasn’t necessarily taking good ones) something along the lines of this:

Sometimes stuff happens, stuff that looks bad, feels bad, smells bad (oh no, I know the worst joke about that) actually isn’t bad, but is working in our best interest.

He gave the example of backburning (for you lucky people who don’t live in bushfire affected areas, this is where areas of bushland are burned in a controlled environment to get rid of the thick undergrowth and debris that can turn a bushfire deadly in uncontrolled conditions. Kind of like a haircut for the forest), where you can see the flames, smell the smoke, have it sting your eyes even, but it doesn’t mean you’re in danger. In fact, the fire is keeping you safe from a potential larger danger. (Is that right Pastor Lucas?)

Source: wikimedia commons

Source: wikimedia commons

Big, huh?

What he’s saying is that sometimes God does things (or allows things to happen) that look bad, but are actually used for our good. And you know what? He’s right.

So I’m sitting in church listening to this, and I figure that it’s probably okay now for me to take my metaphorical hands from my metaphorical ears and to think about whatever is going on in my brain, namely the stuff I posted about on Thursday.

Could this problem be God’s way of helping me?

You know what? This is the reason I sat up and started really listening.

I think it is.

I’d thought about this just a few days before. I’d been so depressed that I’d thrown myself into my work, not the new project that I thought I’d be working on, but pulled out an old one that I’d loved and been proud of, but one where the problems in pushing it through to completion were so overwhelming and seemingly impassable that I’d given up on it. I felt like I was lashing out in anger by opening up that old can o’ worms again, but yesterday in church I wasn’t so sure. That anger and frustration were the things that were fuelling me into actions I hadn’t thought about taking, and maybe instead of being sidelined I was actually walking backwards to get a good run up and vault over that insurmountable wall.

I didn’t realise it, but I’d got too comfortable.

As for the original problem I posted about last week, I’m okay. I’m a big girl, I know how to roll with life’s punches and to pick myself up again. That’ll be okay, I know it. Life goes on.

And if a week of tears and anguish has been the catalyst to hurl me back into the race and set my face to the challenge again, then, yes, I guess I can say it’s been worth it.