Archive for the ‘story’ Category

Movie vs. Book-Inkheart

I just finished watching Inkheart with my younger kids. I really love the kids movies and books that involve the imagination of the characters as an active part of the storyline.

Inkheart should have stayed on the pages of the book, though-my imagination did a better job than the filmakers. There are other great kids movies, just recently, to watch-Bridge to Terebithia, The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe & Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium for instance. Or older ones like A Little Princess or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (personally, I’ll take the old version but you can pick your poison).

I’m not sure what the difference was between them and the film version of Inkheart but I think it might have something to do with the difference between a book you notice reading every time you turn to the next page vs. a book you are so engrossed in that you don’t have the sensation of reading the text or even of time passing. It seems to me the they told the words of the Inkheart story but they never went inside the Inkheart story themselves.

I noticed my kids, as they were watching, asked questions and talked about the characters throughout the movie. They liked the effects and idea so much they talked about how the filmakers did this or that thing- how they created a unicorn with text printed on it, and why the girl had to be dressed like she was headed to some creepy wedding at the end. But, if they’re talking about how the film was made, then they’re not willingly suspending reality as is required by any movie watcher or book reader. They never put aside this world for the world in the movie. That’s the difference between a good movie and one not worth the time- can we put aside our world and then, after a couple of hours, return to it with a slightly different outlook because of the story we were just immersed in?

Inkheart was definitely a no. So if you like the idea of someone who can read characters from a story into existence in our world and the havoc they can cause- read the book; it’s worth the extra time.


Today’s best email

Subject: Karen needs help!! Exploding soda cans in the kitchen!!!
As you can see by the subject line of the email that went out to staff this morning, the day is off to a fine start.

I was trying to be nice and restock the supply of sodas we keep in the vegetables bins in the 2 refrigerators in the kitchen here in the office.

We provide sodas and bottled water for 45 cents each – much cheaper than the vending machines.
As I was carrying a case of Root Beer over to the 2nd fridge, it split in half and dropped to the floor with cans spilling everywhere.

Unfortunately the impact caused one can to spring a tiny leak. You’d think that would be no big deal. But you’d be wrong!!

The force of the soda shooting out of the can, caused the can to spin in circles on the floor. I was bending down trying to grab the spinning can, and it shot soda up my nose. It shot soda up my pant legs. I got soda in my hair and all over my glasses.

By the time I got the can under control, the kitchen was a wreck.

Soda was dripping off the windows and cabinets – even the ones up over the sink!

Soda was dripping down the walls, the table and chairs.

Because I had the refrigerator door open, soda went ALL over inside the fridge too.

Soda squirted people’s lunch bags, all over condiments on the door shelves, and it even dripped down into the vegetable bins.

All total, that one stupid can covered an area about 15’ x 15’!!!

I walked my dripping, but sweet smelling self, out to the nearest cubicle and asked a colleague to email the office and ask people to come help clean it all up. About 8 people descended on the kitchen within 2 minutes. Most came because the idea of exploding soda cans was too intriguing to ignore! It took all of us about 15 minutes to wipe everything off, empty the fridge out, rinse things off, soak it up, etc.

Hope your day is a little less exciting.


And the #1 reply winner:

Here are my responses based on aspects of my identity . . .

Pastor – I’m so very sorry.  Can I do anything to help?

Missionary – You should be grateful to have soda in the first place.  Most people in the world don’t have such luxuries.

Your friend – hahahahahahah!!!  hahahahahah!!! (catch my breath) hahahahahah!!  hahahahahaha!

The Parable at Kruger

This video has become popular, so you may have seen it before. On the other hand, if you haven’t, it can be tough to watch. It’s better without the sound on because the narraration interrupts the flow of the video. If you start it watching it, make sure you watch through to at least seven minutes-don’t quit in the middle.

Isn’t that amazing? Maybe stop and take a breath or two to calm down. I admit it, I cried. It’s watching seven minutes of hell for a water buffalo- not exaggerating. The little guy went through something that there isn’t a better term for than hell. And came out alive enough to walk away.

It has to be one of the best, albeit unusable, sermon illustrations in memory. Get beat down, keep going. Get torn up, keep going. Get a little help from your family and friends. Let God work a miracle in your life so you can stand up and walk again.

It also has all the makings of a great story- a character that you care about, an insurrmountable obstacle, positive and negative progress, conflict, suspense and an amazing finish. I’m glad they didn’t try to figure out what happened to the little guy next. It would have ruined the story.

The video doesn’t need anyone to explain it-I get it. I mean, I GET it. To the point of tears. I can easily see that God would want to tell it to humanity- I feel God in this completely visceral way when I watch it.

Do you think there’s any chance that people don’t need us (the Church) to explain God’s point to them? Can’t we just tell the stories where we see God at work, in Scripture and in life, and simply let God speak for Himself ? Why is it necessary to take it apart, analyze it and try to reduce it to something uncomplicated? Life’s complicated-God is beyond our grasp and he created life. So, why can’t we accept that life is beyond our grasp as well and let God tell us His story?

I was more frustrated with that than I thought I was when I started-frustration is my strongest spiritual gift. What I really wanted to get into is why Hell is considered a location when we define it in terms of an experience, but I guess I can save that for another day…

Brownie Brainwashing- the Girls Scout kind, not the chocolate kind

My daughter is nine years old. She the youngest of our tribe, and the only girl. So, we’re doing a few things for the first time although it’s our fourth child.

This year she joined Girl Scouts. The boys didn’t like Boy Scouts. They said it was too much like school. But she seems to enjoy her time there. At least so far-she’s gone three times. And, technically, she’s a Brownie; somehow you have to be a little magical cleaning helper fairy when you’re to young to be an actual Girl Scout. And I have to pause a minute and say that I would really appreciate if she’d turn into a little magical cleaning helper fairy for a day or two!

The second meeting she attended was the Brownie Investiture Ceremony. I was required to attend. I was not happy about it.

I like to make up more telling names for things, so the “Investiture Ceremony” quickly became known at home as The Indoctrination. That name didn’t last long because the next one was so much better: Brownie Brainwashing.

On a Monday night at 6pm, we went to the meeting.  She skipped, I trudged. We went in the room and I was handed a pin and given the instruction to “pin your daughter when it’s time.” I sat down and joked with the Dad sitting next to me about the amount of blood we were supposed to draw and wondered how exactly I was supposed to know it was time. Other parents milled around trying to find seats. Younger siblings kept themselves entertained by annoying their parents. Then the lights dimmed and the Brainwashing commenced.

First the girls entered with battery operated candles unlit. They walked to one of the troop leaders who twisted the candle to the “on” position, then the ten or so girls stood in a line facing their parents. Frankly, after watching the line I completely understood the wisdom of the battery operated candle light. Too many girls would have either been in the local burn unit, or at best been at the local Supercuts. Then the indoctrinees recited a story, moving down the row from one to the next. I think there was a mix-up because we heard the same part of the story four or five times before we moved on. Maybe they just wanted us to be really clear on that section? At any rate, as soon as they finished the story each girl went up, the leader spun them around saying “Twist me turn me show me the elf. I looked in the water and saw myself” at which point our children would look into a mirror on the floor, and, I suppose, turn into some little housecleaning fairy-elf as the story suggested. Each child took a turn at that and, when they looked up from becoming an elf, it was time. For each of the girls, a parent magically appeared to pin them and affirm their newfound elfhood. Surprisingly, no one seemed creeped out by the idea that their child had just willingly turned herself into an elf.

After the pinning, the girls participated in what the leader called a “friendship circle” in which they told eachother one thing that happened during their week. When everyone was done the leader said a few words, then the group squeezed hands and was released into housecleaning fairy land

And after all the girls succumbed, they were rewarded with cake and punch.

And by the end, I was not nearly so skeptical or annoyed.  Let me explain why:

Every Sunday, I go to church. I arrive in a flurry of people sitting down, socializing and joking a little before the lights dim and the service starts. Then a few people file up front to say, sing or do something. Often I’m asked to repeat what they say, sing or do. I listen, sometimes to a story but more often to a sermon. Then, on the forst sunday of the month, I’m offered communion-a ceremony in which I get to participate individually, but among a larger group of people. Then, we sing again and the pastor says a few words. After which we share some coffee and doughnuts.

Sound familiar?

I made a  couple mental notes for myself about it.

One was that this ritual speaks to people-our liturgical service elements weren’t developed only by human ingenuity, but also with spiritual guidance. Unknowingly, the girls scout troop picked up and developed a ceremony out of several offered elements that echoed those same liturgical elements, even down to the order. As far as I know, none of the brownie troop leaders picked up a Sunday bulletin from our church and said, “Hey, here’s a great model for our brownie brainwashing ceremony.” Which qualifies that as a Creepy God Thing to me. There is something in the make up of people, at least those in my corner of the world, that connects with that particular kind of ceremony.

The second was about my own attitude, and, potentially it’s an attitude a few others may share. I don’t feel anything close to warm and fuzzy about institutional religion, but I love my church family. I went to Brownie Brainwashing with a lousy attitude about how institutions manipulate their members. I feel the same way about churches/denominations/religions, even though I’m involved in it. I think a lot of people may fear that same idea of mass manipulation happening in church. I’m not going to argue that it doesn’t happen; it does.

On the other hand, just by holding a lousy attitude toward the brownie thing, I’m seeing something in it that the leaders did not put there. The women responsible for that ceremony were going for a touching, inclusive event that the girls would remember. They made a rite of passage that had the power to create a bond between the members through the memories of a shared experience. They did it with honesty and caring for the girls. I think most local churches are coming from a similar place of honesty and good intentions, but those of us who fear and resent institutional manipulation don’t broaden our minds to accept that what is being offered has intrinsic value that goes beyond human. That the ritual itself, that thing that makes church feel most churchy, is the place where the most treasured parts of what draws a person to a spiritual life reside. We miss out on that because we see only the trappings, or are uncomfortable with the words, or the unfamiliarity. But the people who make up that church aren’t doing it to manipulate people, they’re doing it to create a space for God to connect with us and for us to connect with each other.

I’d like to propose a sensitivity from both inside the church regarding the fears and negativity those who aren’t involved in churches may bring to the table, and from those who have had difficulties embracing the Church to allow for the idea that the people in the church are just people who are trying to make some space for God without harming or dictating to anyone in the process. (and since I’m on both sides, I’m asking more of myself than anyone else)

St. George’s story

So, in Greece the other day, the Priest told me about the patron saint of the church, St. George. He explained that there was a real version and a myth, as far as the church was concerned. I want to honor the Priest’s version here because he’s the one who told me about George, but the myth is a terrific story and so I think that I’ll combine them.

There are two important things to keep in mind about George from the Priest’s retelling that never come to the forefront of the myth. they are things that he emphasized; they may or may not be important to the actual story, but they were definitely important to him: George was a warrior and he was a Christian man-he was conflicted about these two parts of his life and sought a way to reconcile them and George overcame the evil that beset a small town through his reverence and prayer. I’ll do my best to get those elements into my retelling, but I’m making no promises since I have no idea where the story might go.

(Stories live in the sky,  waiting for someone who can hear them to pull them out of the air and give them a voice that can be heard by the rest of us. The story creates the teller, not the other way ’round. Poems, too.)

Back in the day, at the end of the 3rd or 4th century, there was a small town called Lida. The town was young and had many names, Lydda or Lidda, commonly but also Silene. Lidda sat at the bottom of a range of mountains, near trees and a beautiful blue lake. The town was pristine in every way, pure of heart, innocent of all evil, like a young princess who was cherished by her father, the King.

The lake shone like a sapphire near the town tempting the people to come to it to wash, fish or swim. Many days, the blue jewel was admired before the townspeople’s eyes, but they never dared to approach it. The town remained pure so long as the evil living in the depths of the lake was satisfied. But evil has a way of finding the cracks in the most innocent things, then bending and twisting it into a corrupt echo of it’s former self. Even the little town couldn’t withstand it.

The evil in the lake contained itself in a dragon that was poisoned with the Plague. It existed solely to spread that ugly disease, causing death and sorrow everywhere around the lake. 

In order to appease the dragon the townspeople were obligated to provide it with an alternative that would satisfy it’s hunger and keep it away from Lida. The townspeople sacrificed sheep to the dragon as often as was necessary to keep it from escaping the boundaries of the lakeshore. But some years, sheep could become scarce. In those difficult times, the people would be forced to draw lots to decide who would sacrifice their child to the dragon.No one was expemt from the drawing and many children died in the jaws of the beast. 

It came to pass one day that the King drew the shortest straw and was obliged to sacrifice his precious daughter. The princess was kind hearted and generous. She was like the town she lived in: Innocent, full of joy and with pure heart. Often she’d sit and gaze at the sapphire lake from the shade of a tree, wondering at the sparkling water.

The King begged the people to let his daughter pass. He offered his gold and silver and half of his Kingdom, but the princess herself would not give up her place. And so she went to the lake ,in the bridal gown that had been prepared for the future she was giving up, with the sorrow of the town trailing behind her.

At the lake, as she waited for the dragon, a traveller chance to come by. The young warrior, George, saw the girl trembling and stopped to offer her his assitance. She tried to send him away, growing more desperate every minute that he stayed fearing that his life, too would be forfeit to the evil dragon. Or, worse, that he’d become sick with the plague and all the sacrifices would be meaningless as he rode into Lida carrying it to all the towspeople there.

George, however, refused to leave. He vowed that he would protect the princess, knowing that this was the answer to his questions and prayers. His vow was not to her but to his God whom He followed devotedly,full of doubts about how his training as a soldier could be offered to serve His God. 

The dragon crashed through the water as they were talking. George stregthened himself with the sign of the Cross, swung his horse around and charged toward the lake. A practiced and skilled warrior, he removed his lance, called Ascalon, from it’s trappings and stabbed the dragon, wounding it significantly. After that, George asked the princess for her belt and tied it around the neck of the dragon.

The belt defeated the beast utterly. It followed behind the princess, deafeated. She and George led it back to Lida, where the towspeople were terrified at the sight of the dragon. But George shouted to them that he would kill the beast if they would accept God and be baptised.

The King and the people of Lida consented happily and ten thousand men were baptised that day. George killed the dragon and helped the men of the town pile it onto a rig of four ox-carts to be hauled away. The King, in reverence to Christ for sending St. George to overcome the evil on Christ’s behalf, built a church on the site where the dragon died. And, in God’s grace, from that spot in the church a spring arose from which, legend tells, water flowed that could cure all diseases.

sometimes you just have to laugh at someone else’s expense

WARNING: frozen things really do stick to wet stuff

I make chicken for dinner a lot. The people who have eaten at my house pretty frequently over the years, can attest to that. And there are usually at least four or five people eating there on a given night. There are six of us who live here, five who eat dinner regularly plus a ragtag group who have been in and out for the last few years who either inflate the normal number of family members or who just fill in a seat when the family isn’t there.

One meal I make is chicken with Mr. Insert-Japanese-Name-Here ‘s sauce. I don’t know what it really called because I make up a new name for it each time I use it. My kids’ favorite made up name was Mr. Pokemon’s Sauce. Logically one of their favorite meals is now Pokemon Chicken. We buy huge 10 lb bags of chicken from Costco or BJ’s. They’re already frozen and you can cook the stuff right out of the bag. No defrosting. It’s great! I rarely think to defrost anything but, in the event that I do, we probably won’t eat it for the next three or four nights anyway. So, you can see my dilema. These frozen monster bags solve all my problems (were it only so easy!!)

Tonight, at 6pm, I decided I  ought to consider what we’re having for dinner and how fast I can get it made. Pokemon Chicken solved all my problems in the world, once again and I got the chicken out and the dishes I needed. Then I washed my hands. This was the kiss of death. There were no paper towels around to dry my hands and, well, I knew I’d have to wash them again after I was done so I grabbed a couple frozen pieces of chicken….in both hands.

I so wish I had had the camera nearby. The chicken stuck to my hands, so I was walking around looking like the Penguin in Batman, thanks to my flipper hands. Let me just say it hurt like anything, too. Chicken was hanging off the skin on my hands. In case you’re thinking of trying it yourself sometime, I wouldn’t recommend it.

At that point the solution is pretty simple. Turn on the warm water and let it run over the chickena dn my hands. Think about that just for a minute-how am I going to turn on the water with chicken flippers attached to my hands? Thankfully, my son was in the other room in hysterics at me and he came to my rescue by turning on the water for me, thus saving me from certain death by some kind of rare bacterial infection arising only from prolonged exposure to frozen chicken.

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.