To Be A Storyteller

21 10 2010

A long time ago in a far away place there was a collection of storytellers; they traveled from here to there and further down the road. Sometimes they told their stories to large crowds; sometimes one-on-one. The size of the audience didn’t matter, all that was needed was a listening ear.

Some stories do not sit well on shelves, not the kind that are still alive. Not the kind that are provocative. These are the kind they told; the kinds of stories that mean something, even if you only knew it when the story rang in your ears long after.

Storytelling was their profession, and by profession I don’t mean one’s occupation whereby you support yourself; but the life and the act and the priority of weaving words together such that people can’t help but listen. Storytelling, in other words, was first. How important are stories? Are they practical? Are they necessary? Apparently they thought so because storytelling, to them, was not a once-and-a-while kind of thing; it was their life; or better said, it was life.

I would have liked to have been there; to have heard these storytellers “live.”  Now I read about them; for example in Acts 4:33. It says that there was a grace upon them; much grace. What does that mean?

  • There was this “merciful kindness” on them. This seems to be prerequisite for those who wish to have a story heard. Stories can’t be forced on people; people have to want to hear; wanting comes from being welcomed in.
  • Grace, this outside influence, helped them tell stories that were holy. There are stories that are informational, and then there are stories that are transformational; their stories, as simple as some may have been, as ordinary as what just happened that day, landed on the souls of people. Even plain stories had a quality about them that wouldn’t go away; they kept speaking long after the storyteller had folded up his or her chair.
  • Grace fed the storytellers; strengthening them to keep talking, learning, loving, changing. The stories and their life became one. The stories changed their life and their life became part of the story.

May such grace be upon me; the storytellers of old put theirs in my hands and before they turned, left instructions: “To be continued.”

— Teresa Klassen




Direction: Can You Google It?

2 06 2010

Sometimes finding “direction” leaves you in the weeds, you know, hunting around in the tall grass for that elusive thing called “the answer.” Yeah, that is the distinct picture I have of myself, foraging around, not wanting to miss something when I make a decision. I want 100% certainty that I am doing the right thing, making the best choice, setting my life on a straight course; faced with two options, I want to pick the correct one! I want to reap the benefits of choosing the right door.

The writer of the biblical Book of Proverbs seemed to know something on the topic: “I know where to discover knowledge and discernment” (Proverbs 8:12). That’s confidence, hey?

What I know is that I can Google pretty much anything and get a pretty good answer instantly. This week I was comparing cell-phone plans and customer reviews, looking for the cheapest/best possibilities; amazing what I learned, just sitting in my chair in the living room. If only I could do the same with all my Big Life Questions: set up a profile, put in the right search parameters, and at the press of the button, an answer! Wait a minute; 6,789,432 answers. Hm.

This morning I am reflecting on the goodness of a God who knows me from the inside out and has given me unique gifts and abilities and set me free in a world I will affect (positively or negatively; quite a bit or just a little; there is no neutral). Often I feel lost in it; should I do this, or should I do that? Should I be this, should I be that?

From a chair in my living room I cast a net; I search. It’s called prayer. My prayers aren’t a phrase I repeat; a mantra I recite. Prayer is a conversation between God and I (two-way). I don’t do this enough of course; I talk to myself more than I talk to God. Or I tell God what’s going on (as if He doesn’t know). But when I am not being stupid, I sit down before the very up-close-and-personal God and ask Him for help.

Does God answer me “in the moment?” There have been times when, yes, I clearly know what to do next.

This often happens when I ask God my parenting questions. When I have a child who is locking horns with me, I pray that desperate “help!” prayer and it is like I can see God seeing into them and translating them for me. I suddenly find myself knowing the question to ask, or the response to give.

I can’t explain this, I just know that God knows how my kids are wired and He loves them more than I do. I know that I am merely a steward of them, given the duty to water them and grow them in a way that they will understand who they are. Yes, God has specifically and creatively answered my prayers for my kids. What a relief, because I am as immature as they are sometimes, and I need some pretty supernatural knowledge and discernment to do this right.

In the moment, God has used Scripture passages to affirm the “right thing to do”. In the moment, I have seen myself and have known I am off and thus my decisions will be off if I don’t say sorry to God and match up with His footsteps once again.

Some answers have been more general. Should I do this, or should I do that? Often the world is not going to fall apart if I do one or the other. Often both are fine choices and I think God just nudges in these situations. Sometimes He says, write your pros and cons and apply the wisdom I have already given you and then go there. Sometimes one little thought is enough to put more weight on one side than the other.

I think God is just asking for me to be in conversation so that He can help me figure things out; not only that, but to keep first things first. He wants to freely and lavishly give me knowledge and discernment. He wants me to walk with confidence and not flounder.

I am never lost in God’s presence. I may be uncertain about what is going to happen today or tomorrow, but because He is with me, I am not adrift.

Because I know where knowledge and discernment live, I can show up before God with curiosity, wearing my adventure gear, prepared for what He most certainly will show me is next.

— Teresa Klassen

Working From The Soul

29 04 2010

Colossians 3:23 this morning: “Whatever you are doing, work at it with enthusiasm, as to the Lord and not for people…;” in the original Greek, enthusiasm is “from the soul.”

Ever tried to define “soul”? Here are three attempts: (thanks

1 : the spiritual part of a person believed to give life to the body and in many religions thought to live forever.
2: the necessary part of something…(ie. “soul of the campaign”)
3: the part of one’s personality having to do with feelings and the sense of what is right and wrong.

When I think of “work,” I don’t usually equate it with my soul but this is on my mind. Last night Alecia and I were talking about her next steps, her goals, her gifts, her questions. We talked about “being practical” versus “pursuing adventure.” How do you figure out what you will do? All those BIG questions.

Our Work and our Life are so tightly tied together that at times they can seem like one thing; whatever we end up doing along the way, the Bible calls us to work at it with all our soul as to the Lord. I really like where this is going…

Definition 1: we have something that is “us.” It is what gives us life and makes us unique. I think, when looking at what we ought to do, we ought to look at our soul.  Who are we?  What is our unique footprint to look like on this earth?  Why in the world do we think this way versus another? Why do we find joy in this one thing (as strange as it may be)? Why do we feel especially passionate about certain topics? Doesn’t all that matter? Are those just frivolous things, better suited to hobbies than our life’s work?

One of the definitions of “practical” (as in, “you should be practical about this”) is “being able to put to use.” I think God was counting on us being very practical about putting to use the soul He sewed into us. I think when we listen to what He is saying to our souls, what we do, in honour of His name, will really matter. What we do will feel more like a mission than simply “work” and it will impact others because it will contribute to His overall plan. If this sounds grandiose, I don’t mean it that way. I have found that at times God has called me to some pretty simple things that I have found tremendous joy in; I can’t even explain why, I just know that somehow I was listening and carried out His idea.

Definition 2: the necessary part of something. What gives something “soul”? Belief. Passion. Joy. Commitment. It is pretty captivating to work alongside someone who believes in what they do. I listen to the CBC (whenever my kids don’t change the station); I even listen to the things that “aren’t me” at all because I am interested in what people are interested in. I don’t like gardening and I am really bad at keeping any sort of plant alive (including cactuses) but when Brian Minter talks about plants, I am just drawn into that world. How can he know so much about plants? How can he be so passionate about it. I listen because you can tell it really matters to him and that is fascinating to me. Find something that really matters to you and you will give it soul. You will, because something in you connects to it in a way that someone else might not.

Definition 3: Having said all that, I think it is too simple to look at what you are good at or like. In a broken down world, Christ-followers are called to rebuild something. The prayer I pray over our kids is found in Isaiah 58 (read the whole chapter, it is pretty powerful stuff when considering one’s calling in life) verse 12:

Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins
and will raise up the age-old foundations;
you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls,
Restorer of Streets with Dwellings.

If we are to be a part of the Mission, “your Kingdom come on earth….as it is in heaven” then we better find what has been imprinted on our souls and do it.  Our life, our work, absolutely has to do with making a difference. It doesn’t mean everyone is going to lead a charitable organization, but it does mean that every Christ-follower will make every organization more charitable.

When going after the Big Question, “What should I do,” look around at the world…what should we do about this? No one gets a pass. No one gets to cheer on the sideline. We are all part of the greater purpose of God.

How will this all come together? Just daily listening; just daily obedience: “But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

— Teresa Klassen

Afterword: Hey, here is another blog on this topic. I get updates on Twitter from Donald Millers Blog. For another take, click here and read this.

When It Is No Trouble At All

27 04 2010

“Considering what I have done for you, is it really too much to ask?”

I have said this. It is usually directed towards one or more children who are complaining about some menial task I have asked them to do; usually their complaining takes longer than the task itself. The thing about being a mom is that you are always one up. If the child has cleaned up the dishes 3 days in a row, you have cleaned up the dishes 3,000 days in a row; things always lean in your favour. So then you pull out the big one:

“Considering what I have done for you, every single day while you have been alive on this earth, you’d think that you could clean out the dishwasher — which will take you under 7 minutes — without complaining. Really,  is that too much to ask?”

Everything is so crystal clear to me when it comes to correcting the attitudes and behaviours of my children, but when I am the child, there are things I spend more time complaining about than doing. I know I can’t support this Biblically, but I am pretty sure God rolls His eyes at me in those times when I am wearing Him out. He pleads, “…give your body to God. Let it be a living and holy sacrifice––the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask?” (Romans 12:1).

It’s not too much to ask, it’s just that I lack in staying power. I keep crawling off the altar (especially if I get bored or mad or lonely or hungry or disgruntled or insulted or confused or tired or uncomfortable or distracted or embarrassed or tempted or…you get the idea). I am (not exaggerating) a short-term-project person. Ask anyone in my family. Anything that requires a lot of patience and I find finicky, tedious, or BORING gives me hives. I don’t bake things that are tiny and require icing. I don’t cook things that have 17 steps.  I don’t knit. I don’t scrapbook. I do not garden. And I nearly had to take Nitroglycerin tablets over our recent grouting project (kitchen backsplash – Liza Tough, Queen of Do-it-yourself projects, hats off to you).

Here’s the problem. In God’s wisdom and sense of humour He gives me things that go against my grain. He knows me and He knows my gifts and abilities (better than I know them) but it isn’t about me just becoming better at them, it’s about becoming better with Him.

Recently I have really, really been questioning some of the directions He has taken me in but it occurs to me that God has deliberately taken me to places that He knows I am going to complain about. He knows I will complain and be frustrated because here I cannot rely on what comes naturally. In my frustration, I am going to talk to Him way more than I might otherwise have. I am going to say, “God, I don’t know what I am doing. I don’t even know if I LIKE where you have me…”

“Yeah, well, will you stay on the altar or will you only love Me when you like where I have you? Will you give your best effort when actually it is effortless for you? Will you only be a living sacrifice, when it is no sacrifice at all?”

— Teresa Klassen

The Second Journey

20 04 2010

(Quotes in this blog-post are all from Brennan Manning’s book “The Ragamuffin Gospel”)

Sometimes you walk through a series of events and at the end of them all, or sometimes in the middle of them,  you know you have changed, or that you are changing. I realize it could be argued that everything changes us, everything steers us in a direction, but I think there comes a time of significant change, when we are “dragged away from chosen and cherished patterns” to face a new reality.

Brennan Manning, in his EXCELLENT book “The Ragamuffin Gospel” says that this often occurs between the age of 30 and 60 but I think for some it happens younger — especially if that person has walked through some kind of fire. At whatever age this happens, suddenly life comes into focus and it is your life, only different. Manning calls this our Second Journey.

“Second journeys usually end quietly with a new wisdom and a coming to a true sense of self that releases great power. The wisdom is that of an adult who has regained equilibrium, stabilized, and found fresh purpose and new dreams. It is a wisdom that gives some things up, lets some things die, and accepts human limitations. It is a wisdom that realizes: I cannot expect anyone to understand me fully. It is wisdom that admits the inevitability of old age and death.” (158)

I really identify with and love how Manning has described this.  It is a different kind of enlightenment then you hear about on Oprah – which is all about self-awareness – because, for the Christ-follower, this understanding is “often accompanied by a second call from the Lord Jesus. The second call invites us to a serious reflection on the nature and quality of our faith in the gospel of grace, our hope in the new and not yet, and our love for God and people.” (159)

When the Bible says that God takes everything and works everything out for good (Romans 8:28), I think that we see this when we begin our Second Journey; we hear Jesus saying, “I am with you, I am for you, I am in you. I expect more failure from you than you expect from yourself,” (168) and we finally begin to understand that. We finally begin to see that God really does use all the “random” events of our lives for His good and our good and they do become tools in His hands to reach out to others and draw them in to His love.

It is during the Second Journey that I think we finally begin to move away from our illusions (see my last post on the “Adidas Bag”) and see our family, friends, coworkers, neighbours and “enemies” more realistically and are able to truly forgive them “acknowledging with unexpected compassion that these people are neither angels nor devils but only human.” (159)

I think we can stand in the way of a Second Journey, or we can open ourselves up to it. I am watching myself in this regard.  I feel like I feel when I swim laps. I am not that great of a swimmer so I really have to think about what I am doing. Am I fighting the water or am I using it to carry me? Am I thinking about what my arms are  doing? Am I thinking about whether I am at the surface of the water or am I drooping down into the depths where there is unnecessary resistance? It is all about form.

I think the same could be said for my own Second Journey which I am awkwardly “swimming” through and what I am letting Jesus teach me. Am I fighting Him or am I letting Him carry me? Am I thinking about what I am doing? Am I thinking about whether I am where He wants me or if I am sinking to places where I am facing unnecessary resistance? It is also all about form.

— Teresa Klassen