Archive for September, 2008

Smaller bites of failure

How’s that for a pessimistic title for a blog entry? I haven’t kept up at all with the Story Project. (Due dates are not as awful as I’d like to pretend they are.) But from time to time something comes up that reminds me that it’s hanging around in the background waiting for me to pay attention to it, like a dog whining to go for a walk.

I’m reading a book, for fun for a change. It’sIreland by Frank Delaney. I picked it up for the Irish history aspect and discovered a treasure trove of storytelling details. Things I’d never pick up from a text or website. It may be enough to push me out of my current rut.

A while ago, I wrote about not knowing the direction this whole idea was taking and so I had stalled. I never recovered from that stall, which by now is a full-blown stop. It’s discouraging in a sense because I don’t particularly want to go back to the beginning. And I know that I stalled because of a fear of failure more than anything else. I can give all kinds of bs excuses why my topic was too broad, or I wasn’t finding the information I was looking for or , simply, and most likely, I just don’t have the time this week/month/pick your favorite procrastination time frame.

So, if I don’t want to fail and my remedy to that is not to do anything about it at all, I’m sure to fail eventually. It may be a fading failure over a fireworks style failure but the result is the same: I get nowhere.

The series we’re working through in youth group right now is a baseline on faith. One of the sessions is on fear. The main point of that session is that fear is the theological opposite of faith. Faith is the action of living what you believe. Fear either stops you, in which case your belief isn’t as strong as you might have thought or fear opens a door for you to behave in a way that honors your beliefs. Faith is what gives a person the courage and confidence to face fear and move through it. Running from it prevents forward motion, uses energy and raises stress levels. If I really believe that God put me where I am, to do what I do and that I have certain gifts that he will make use of in that place, then I really either have to prove it by moving forward or admit that I don’t actually believe it.

Somehow this is all related to Ireland. In it, there is a storyteller who is relating the history of Ireland to his listeners, but you don’t get too much from him directly. Instead, the story is about a boy who is captivated by him and has a special connection to him. That’s great for me. it helped me narrow down what I’m doing to something manageable and also has some good practical ideas, but, in the form of a story, of course. It’s exactly what I want to be able to do with the whole project-tell the stories in a way that deeper learning can happen. To take it beyond the story.

 I told a parable the other night about a Kingdom where everyone wears a crown and is a member of the royal family-as long as they remember that they are not the King. That story worked the way I I’m talking about. I have to be really careful though. I found out that I am too much the teacher and want to explain the story-it should stand for itself. I should only be the conduit through which it passes.

So, that’s where I am today. Collecting stories, trying to figure out some of the nuances needed to tell it well and give the space in the telling for the listener to “breathe”. A smaller bite that maybe I have a big enough mouth to chew.

Special message alert

Andrew- I need to write on my blog. ~S

What friendship really means

A few weeks back I took my kids to this creek about a half hour away from our home. It’s a cool place, off the beaten track. There’s a little town that we never visit, but it could be touristy, if it really wanted to be. The creek has HUGE rocks that are great for climbing right behind the town. It’s only maybe a half mile worth of these rocks, but it’s lots of fun for the kids and in the middle of the huge rocks is a swimming hole that’s deep enough for jumping into, with a rock “slide” that actually works pretty well.

We go there pretty often. It’s fun and different from the usual swimming pool routine. I’ve even taken a few of the youth group kids there on occasion. You have to hike down to the swimming hole. There’s no clear path. A few trails head in the right direction but they hit rocks and then you navigate along the creek on your own until you get to the path around an island, where the swimming hole is. It’s a great place.

When we went this time, there were a few other people there. Sometimes’ there’s none and sometimes it’s pretty crowded. This time it was us and always another family or two coming and going.There were hikers passing by the scene intent on wherever they were going and mostly Moms with kids swimming and killing the last few days of summer before the kids heaced back to school. Most of the people kept to themselves, revelling in the day in nature with their specialty hiking/water shoes or crocs, and backpacks full of energy drinks and protein bars. One of the families, on the other hand, was very friendly. The Mom and I were talking on and off and helping out with each other’s kids. All around, it was a great afternoon-idyllic. But this other family-well, they’re really who I’m writing about.

They had two children with them. I’m not sure both were theirs. Mom and her boyfriend had brought them. They were a working class couple. Cut off jeans, old sneakers, grungy t-shirts, the kids’ clothes were a little ragged and small. They had PB&J sandwiches and warm Cokes with them for lunch. Mom was nice and talkative, half-aware of what the kids were doing. Her boyfriend stood off to the side, smoked and watched the kids playing. We shared some water from our water bottles with the kids and our youngest is always looking for a few new playmates so she spent most of her time with their kids.

 They also brought a friend along with them. He had Cerebral Palsy. He was confined to a wheelchair. They didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to him while they were there other than to go over once in a while. Mom talked about him a lot though. I don’t think he was related to the family. She always referred to him as a friend. Always. Never once was he someone she “takes care of”, or a person who was her responsibility or a burden to her in any way. She didn’t talk about difficulties with him. She mentioned that they had picked him up to bring him along because he loves watching the kids play in the creek. They’d obviously brought him there before.

They had brought a man with Cerebral Palsy a half mile own a steep hill, over huge rocks, dragging his motorized wheelchair along with them.  Just because he liked watching the kids play. Eventually, they were going to carry him back up again to take him home, along with leading their tired toddler and other kids. And this wasn’t the first time they’d done this. They’d been there before and were willing, happy even, to come back just because their friend liked being there with them.  They knew what they were in for, but Mom had no sense of obligation or resentment in her voice at all. She was happy to have him there; happy to be sharing their day with a friend.

I wish I had a picture of them. I was blessed to have been included in their circle for a little while.

People are Messy

I’m not sure how to tell this story-actually it’s not over yet, so I’m just making a preliminary sketch right now. It’s still in the mental realm of the surreal to me. A while back, I knew someone who ran away to join the circus. Yeah, literally. It’s so bizarre and such a cliche that it’s laughable and upsetting at the same time.

This one ranks up there with it. And Timing is Everything.

3 weeks ago-After 25 years of a marriage that’s been volitile and chaotic, there’s relative peace and an agreement on how the next few years of fixed incomes, retirement and senior citizenship will mean for them as a couple. They’re getting along better than they ever have in 25 years of marriage.

2.5 weeks ago-The husband surfs through a site dedicated to connecting high school alums with their classmates. He clicks on a few profiles to see what old friends are up to.

2 weeks ago-The husband recieves an email from an old girlfriend who’s profile he clicked on. She says the site let her know someone was checking out her profile and when she saw who it was she decided to contact him.

1.5 weeks ago- Their conversation continues via email. They decide that they’d like to meet in person. There is some unfinished business they need to find closure about. Husband tell his wife about the situation and that he’d like to see his friend at some point. He admits to having dormant feelings for this woman reawakened by the email conversation. The married couple spends the weekend together trying to process what all this means and how to cope with his feelings for the woman and her feelings of betrayal and insecurity.

5 days ago-The husband tells his wife that he needs to spend some time alone figuring things out for himself and leaves for their second home. The wife waits to hear what’s happening over the long holiday weekend.

2 days ago-The husband returns home, tells the wife he spent the weekend with the woman and that he wants a divorce. He leaves immediately to live with her at her home and the married couple’s second home, throwing away 25 years of marriage and family on a teenage crush and a whim.

….These are the Days of Our Lives…..