Thursday, November 19, 2015

Thankful Thursday - This is my story...

I went to The Well tonight. (I love the image that comes to mind when I ponder that statement - going to the well. To drink deeply. To quench my thirst. To receive the water of life. Living water.)
The Well is a new worshipping community here in Charlotte.
It meets at Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church every Thursday evening.
Dinner is from 5:15 until 6:15, with a time of worship, storytelling, and community starting at 6:30.
Come join us sometime...

Tonight was the third time that the participants of The Well have gathered.
We eat together.
We pray together.
Someone reads a passage from the Bible.
Sometimes we sing.
We listen to each other's stories.
We talk.
No sermon. Just someone telling a story.
Just us sharing. Listening. Reflecting.
It's a beautiful thing. A rare thing. A precious thing.

Tonight, Mark Yaconelli told the story of his friend and mentor, Morton Kelsey.
A story of love, redemption, trust, broken trust, music, restoration, and the creation of a new story.
What happens when the life story we've told ourselves for decades turns out to not be the whole story after all? What if we are loved beyond all our wildest dreams and expectations? What happens to our hearts and our lives? What happens to our souls?

Then he directed us to turn to one another and tell a story about a time in our lives when we were trusted, when someone counted us worthy of their trust. What did that feel like? What did that trust bring up in us and bring out of us?

Other questions followed: what happens to people who are never trusted?
What happens when someone breaks our trust?
What happens inside of us when our trust is broken?
What happens when we interact with the person who has broken our trust?

I was reminded of one time (one of the many times, for certain) when I broke someone else's trust.
In one of the worst ways a person's trust can be broken.
I spoke about the moment of being forgiven, being welcomed back into relationship with the one whose life I had shattered.
Someone responded by saying, "I'm sure your remorse helped her along in her forgiveness."
I had to disagree - "No, she came to me first and forgave me before I asked."

Hers was life-transforming forgiveness. Love. Radical reconciliation.
Undeserved. Grace. Favor. Mercy.

Now, that is good news. The best kind of good news.
I'm not sure that better news has ever been shared.
"You don't deserve this. You haven't earned this. You haven't even asked.
But I forgive you. I love you.
Please come and be a part of my life.
Come back home. Be my friend. Be part of my family."

This is my story - selfishness, foolish choices, broken trust.
Confession. Tears. Sorrow. Forgiveness.
I was the prodigal friend welcomed back into the fold of friendship even though I knew I was unworthy. She was the prodigal friend, excessive and extravagant (that's what prodigal means) in her compassion and mercy towards me.

Tomorrow I will spend most of the day listening to Mark teach about storytelling, about giving testimony of not only the blessings, but also the brokenness in our lives.

Here's the text from the brochure about the workshop.

A Leadership Conference with Mark Yaconelli Building Community. 
Building Trust: The Power and Practice of Personal Storytelling 
Where? Union Presbyterian Seminary Charlotte 
5141 Sharon Road, Charlotte, NC 28210 
When? Friday, November 20th 
Session One 9:00am-12:00pm 
Session Two 1:30pm-4:30pm 
Participants are encouraged to attend both workshops, but may attend only one. 

What? This one-day training will be an exploration of personal storytelling in ministry. Through presentation, contemplative exercises, theological reflection, and a variety of narrative practices, participants will encounter the power of personal storytelling for spiritual formation, outreach, social justice, and other ministries. The workshop will give participants practical skills for telling stories, creating narrative events, and assisting others as they "give testimony" to the work of the Spirit in their lives.

All of which has me wondering...

What would be the impact on our families, on our friendships, on work, on service, on ministry, on our entire lives if we learned to both tell and listen to one another's stories with grace, with attention, with intention, and with love?

What if we trusted one another enough to be vulnerable, to be transparent, to tell the truth, to give testimony of what we have seen and heard and felt and tasted and how we are being transformed by the stories around us and with us?

What if God's story really is embedded in our own stories and by not telling our stories, we are depriving each other of some chapters of God's Great Story of love and inclusion and hospitality and trust and forgiveness?

What if preaching and teaching and leading are really about telling stories?
Wait... that's exactly how Jesus preached and taught - through stories and parables.
What if we learned from the example of The Greatest Storyteller?

I am grateful for all that Mark brought to The Well tonight.
I am grateful for the stories we shared with each other and the lessons we all learned from those stories and experiences.
I am excited about tomorrow's sessions.
I am excited about learning how to craft my life story and how to tell my story.
I am grateful in advance for all that tomorrow will bring.

Grateful, grateful, grateful, grateful.

1 comment:

Lori said...

Gail. You found the time to write and I am so glad you did. Your presence is a gift. I feel humbled to walk with you, and grateful to you for your authentic way.