Thursday, July 09, 2009

What I'm reading on my sabbatical...

To Be Told, by Dan Allender. This is a book about the importance of knowing and telling your story. I'm reading it because I know there are things about my past that I've yet to understand and share with others. Until I do, I won't fully enter into the story that God has written about me and has yet to write in me, for his glory. I want to be more whole, more at "shalom" with my past and thus more missional in the present.

Allender says that knowing and telling the stories of our lives is essential. I agree. Mission flows out of loving and interpreting our past. We have to identify the themes that have operated in our lives and grow to appreciate them - even those associated with pain and loss.

But spending time on our story takes, um...time! It's slow work. Allender encourages us to take the time necessary to reflect, remember, write down, and share our stories and themes, tragedies and triumphs, with others in the body of Christ. He says that this is a dying art. He says it's as we hear and edit one another's story that we begin to live out of the dreams and passions God has given each of us and so fulfill our unique calling.

All of this would be food for narcissists were it not for Allender's relentless focus on living for the benefit of others. We are to "steward" our story not for our good alone but for the good of the community and world.

One takeaway I found particularly appealing is Allender's call to celebrate more often. He says on pg. 146,

"Stories are food for friends to feast on together. We are called to write and then rewrite, and we also are called to tell our stories to people who love us, people who will celebrate our life. We need people who will ponder our stories and help us write with more integrity and depth. But we need more than mere feedback; we need celebration."

I have told my wife before that my childhood lacked celebration. I did not feel joyfully affirmed by my parents or celebrated for my individuality. As a matter of fact, I grew up feeling an overwhelming and deadening need to comply, to stuff my opinions and emotions, to conform to the wishes of my parents. What celebration there was, was stiff and formal. Here I am at age 55 feeling a great need to feast and celebrate and be glad with friends. Perhaps this book can be the inspiration for more storytelling and celebration at UPC and other places.

Dan Allender is the president of Mars Hill Graduate School in Seattle. I'll be going there in late August as part of my sabbatical to Allender's Story Workshop, which is based on To Be Told. I'm eager to write my story and live out of it more confidently in the years ahead.

This would be a good book for small groups to read and discuss together. There's an accompanying workbook that would enrich your reading of To Be Told.


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