story

A long, long time ago (10 years) in a galaxy far, far away (Asheville, NC), I sat at my desk in my office trying desperately to figure out a way to make a living that would allow me to be more creative, more entrepreneurial and more adventurous. You know that feeling, right? The feeling when you reach that point in your career and you realize, “This is as good as it is going to get.” I was just 31, almost 32 years old when this feeling crawled across my computer screen, my diploma from graduate school, my desk littered with scratched notes and numbers, dates and appointments- crawled across like the 4pm thunderstorm that came everyday like clockwork in the late spring and summer months, dark, stirring, churning. There is only so much wallowing in the aftermath of a storm a person can take before they realize that things aren’t going to change unless I change. Unless I embrace the challenge presented I am just going to keep on wringing out my soul letting the storm water collect at my shoes, leaving my feet wet and in puddles.

I did some research on company time, trying to figure out where to put this energy, this desire, this hunger for something different and I landed on a website for Mountain Micro Enterprises- a place to help innovators and small business dreamers with articulating their vision into a business plan. Well alright. Now, what kind of business do I want to start?

The list was both extensive and funny; filled with ideas that would seem to make my job fun, creative and maybe even leave the community a better place. I landed on an idea of making and selling flavored peanut butter and maybe even opening up a storefront café. Yes, I know, there are other companies out there that do this, where do you think I got the inspiration? But nothing like this was happening in my little world called Asheville so dream on, dream on, dream on I did.

I registered for the Bizworks class through Mountain Micro Enterprises and gave away 3 hours of my Monday evening for 10 weeks. It was thrilling to be in a room with dreamers who were alive with hope and determination and vision. When someone speaks with enthusiasm and joy; their whole face changes; their whole body language changes and their whole voice changes. Ideas ranging from massage therapy, specialized dog food makers, consignment shops, utilizing a parcel of family land to become a retreat center and my little idea, “PBnJOY!”

Our first homework assignment was to tell the story of our business. That was it. Tell the story. Get people’s attention by opening up the story, engage the story and find a way to plug themselves into the story. It wasn’t so much about getting a person to buy my peanut butter, it was about creating a moment where they could connect a part of their own story to the story of PBnJOY. I wasn’t looking to sell to customers; I was looking for fellow storytellers to buy into my story and tell others about it as well.

The craft of telling stories is a big part of being a songwriter. A really good song grabs you using a hook, a melody, a neat chord progression. A really really good song hangs around in your head and you find yourself singing the parts you can remember while driving, mowing the lawn, waiting on the elevator, shaving your legs. A really, really, really good song tells a story you connect with because it resonates with your own story. These are the songs we never forget. These are the stories we never let go of either.

Telling stories is as ancient as the first conversation shared between two people. If something funny happened on the way down to the stream to collect water, that something funny was probably shared upon returning to the community. If something horrible happened while out hunting for food, that something horrible was probably shared once that individual returned to the community. I experienced something and I want to share that something with you and I want you to share with me if something happens to you. Stories. Telling stories.

I absolutely love asking people questions because bit by bit they reveal part of their story within their responses. Bit by bit, I can see where we connect and where we connect is the source of the part of my own story I share. Telling, sharing, questioning, growing- where your story and my story connect- relationships develop.

But we have grown accustomed to our ear buds, our tiny screens, the various bings, bongs, rings, clangs, beeps and buzzes that happen in our pockets when a text, email, message, tweet takes place in the universe. We still tell stories, but are we sharing stories?

Before written language was discovered, we were taught with stories being told to us. Stories helped pass down the history of a family, a community, a culture from one generation to the next. They were repeated in various places and at various times until the stories became a part of one’s blood, bones, sinew, heart beat.

In many houses of worship we are treated to bits and pieces of an amazing story- a story that includes life, love, joy, sin, forgiveness, angels, demons, creation, floods, fire, heroes and villains. This story also holds for some people the hope and promise of Christ- eternal life offered through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, knowing and understanding the sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross. We are offered a chance to reconcile our experiences of day to day life with the knowledge that light overcomes darkness, death does not win, that the God that created us, loves us and longs to be in relationship with us- even our broken bits, our stubborn bits, our self righteous bits, our mournful bits- none of those can stop our God from loving us. This is an amazing story filled with hope and light that is ours to share to whomever, why ever, when ever- but it might be too much to share all at once in the same way that a steak might be too much for a shrimp fork- is it possible, yes but is there a better way? Yes.

These stories that we are treated to on Sundays or any time we open the Bible have the capacity to stretch our minds and hearts, to show us the world through a different lens and that lens can often reveal to us that the God of glory isn’t just in the stories that we read, but in the stories of our very lives. When we make that connection, our story changes and it will continue to change over and over throughout our whole life. When we see ourselves not just hearers of the story but tellers of the story and use the scripture and our experiences with the presence of God in our lives as a way to communicate that God is always ready to receive us, just as we are, and love us, just as we are, we become active participants in sharing the Gospel.

Telling our story is important. Telling our story of faith and spirituality and journey and doubt is important.   One person’s story might be the only story of faith another person encounters- or it might be the story of faith that opens up their heart like a book and allows them to start reading their own story of faith and see that God has been there all along.

This isn’t the evangelism of the tv pastor or of the corner preacher. This is the evangelism of hearing where your life and my life connect and finding God at work, already, in those places. This is the evangelism of sharing the word, as we have experienced it and finding a common language knitted together from the source, the Word made flesh and through that, working together to tell and listen and share that Word with others.

So. What’s your story?