Today I’ll write the first of a series five posts. I’ll post one a day over the next week describing an experience that changed my life. I will, however, avoid the ones that everyone expects – the day I began following Jesus, my wedding day, and the days my children were born. I could write volumes about these experiences, but will save this series to focus on other subjects – besides, I hope that my love for Jesus, my bride, and my children is expressed throughout everything I write.
That was the tag line for a video series I just watched by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) called “Let Story Guide You – Life is a Story. Make Yours Count.”
It really resonated with me.
Using Biblical examples, Donald Miller describes the power of story for teaching and influencing others.
He suggests that most American Christians have been allowing others to write the stories that they live in and encourages them to write our own stories.
Every good story has four elements -
1. A good protagonist/hero/lead character,
2. a risky mission/worthy objective,
3. a conflict,
4. and a resolution.
After watching, I wondered if most of us have been so concerned about protecting our families from the conflict that we have forfeited our mission and purpose? The problem is that if we don’t have a good mission/purpose, then our story is not one that most people would want to watch – it’s a boring story if the mission isn’t important enough to require sacrifice and effort. Miller relates it to watching a movie about a guy who is trying to buy a Volvo – not a very worthy mission.
He goes on to describe a friend who had a troubled daughter. She was involved in drugs and had a boyfriend that her father did not approve of. After a long talk, his friend (the girl’s father) realized that there were two stories being offered to his daughter. She could live in the exciting, on the edge story with her boyfriend where she felt loved and accepted, or she could live in the story she was finding at home where things were sort of boring and she was ignored by her parents who seemed to be fighting all the time. Once he came to this realization, he decided to write a better story for his family. At a family meeting, he announced that together they would raise money for a $20,000 orphanage in Mexico. Conflict ensued since he hadn’t warned his wife. With the new story being offered, his daughter was intrigued enough to start searching for ways to raise money on-line. Within two weeks, she had broken things off with the boyfriend and was focusing her attention on getting outside of herself to raise money and serve that little village.
I wonder if this is why men hate church so much. I mean. . .think about the story offered to men by the church. It’s a story where the heros are the little old men who have been “faithful” to the church by sitting in their pews for 40 years. Where’s the adventure? Passion? Like most families, the church has been so concerned with protecting itself, that it has lost it’s purpose, it’s mission. What if the church was everything God had called it to be? A place where people are willing to sacrifice everything to take the Gospel to a hurting and dying world. Now that’s passion. That’s a story that men want to be a part of. That’s a story worth dying for.
What story will be told by your life? Will you live in God’s story or allow the world to write it for you? Is your life story a page-turner? Are you a strong protagonist/hero? Is your mission/purpose worthy of dying for? Is there sufficient conflict to make a great story? (Jesus says, we will be persecuted if we follow Him, so we should have conflict.) Are you hanging on to the promise of Scripture for resolution?
I first discovered this series and Tommy Nelson at Metro Bible Study many years ago. I’d guess around 2001 or so. Anyway, he was speaking there during one of the summers that I worked at Tomball UMC. I used to drive an hour up there each week to hear him teach and somewhere during that time I heard about this series. Around the same time, my sister was attending a church in the Dallas area where they had Tommy joining them too. Anyway, I went through the series with Tommy Nelson that summer and it really made me rethink how I had been doing the “dating” thing. I learned how I should treat women and also how I should be using the time I was single to prepare myself for meeting someone. My sister and I had a few conversations about it all back then.
Sometime after that, one of the adult Sunday School classes in Tomball decided to go through the video series. I heard about how some of the women who were active in the church really struggled through the series because their husbands just weren’t in the same place they were spiritually. I decided then, that I would not be one of those husbands. I also decided that I should be teaching that material to the students I was working with. At that time, they didn’t offer a “student” version, so we just carefully went through the adult series and the students just ate it up. They loved it! Tommy spoke of and explained things that no other adult in their lives would even come close to talking about. The students were also shocked to realize that the Bible really speaks about some of those things. It was an incredible time in the youth ministry as I watched students begin to make better decisions about their dating lives.
Sometime later, I began dating Miranda and we really tried to live out our dating life in the way that God would want us to. We prayed together and decided that after we got engaged, we would go through the Song of Solomon series together. We had each been through it on our own, but felt like doing it together would bring up specific issues that we could talk about and make sure we were together on before our marraige. It did, and it was a good thing for us to do together.
Another time I taught this series to my sister and her fiancee. They didn’t really have any marriage counseling, and were asking me to lead the wedding service. (My father-in-law actually officiated the wedding.) I insisted that they go through Tommy’s material first and Miranda and I traveled up to Ft Worth to lead them through it. I must admit that it was a little strange talking about some of those subjects with my sister, but still a really good thing.
My most recent experience (besides this school one) was teaching it to the students in my new church. It was my first experience with the student version, and it went well for our group, but when we finished, they still wanted to know the rest of the story. (The student version doesn’t cover the marriage portions.) I taught that portion to them on my own.
Now, I’ve talked alot about my different experiences with the Song of Solomon, but probably haven’t said much about how it specifically has impacted my life. The picture that the Song of Solomon paints of how to do a love relationship is the most impressive I have ever seen. Solomon’s character is strong and yet sensitive to His bride. He is truly a man’s man and yet knows how to approach her with gentleness. Their love for each other is evident and they freely express it to one another with their words, their actions, and in their intimate moments. It is also evident that there are times to restrain and to focus on the Lord. I pray that I can be a man like Solomon (with the exception of all the extra wives) and that my bride will love me the way that this book describes her love for him. Also in this book, we are able to watch them fight and argue and then make up with each other – how comforting it is to know that these are normal things that couples go through, and that love is a commitment to continue in spite of those things. I don’t believe that I would ever have been the kind of man who would have attracted my bride, if it weren’t for the things I learned from the Lord through Solomon and Tommy Nelson. I would still be a single, and probably miserable man – so all this is to say – I love this stuff! God has used it greatly in my life and I will continue to teach it to the best of my ability to anyone who will listen.
Howard Hendricks wrote this book and we’re studying it in my Hermeneutics class. There is also a video series that goes along with it that we’re going to be watching throughout the 5 weeks of class. It’s a 19 part series and we’re gonna have to go to the library at the school to watch them. It’s an hour and a half drive for me to go to the school so I got on-line and was looking for a place I could buy the videos or rent them or something. Anyway, it looks like they have reworked the series into a 7 session video instead of the 19 sessions. It doesn’t look like there’s any place to buy the old version which is what my homework is written from, so I’m gonna be trying to find a way in the next few weeks to get up to the school – I hate spending $$ on gas right now – it’s about $2.80 gallon. (I’ll probably read this 20 years from now and think that’s cheap, but it’s not – at least not right now.)
Anyway, the video part is Howard sitting in front of about 8 other folks who are supposed to be students. It’s pretty funny to watch though ’cause they are definitely not actors. It’s clear that Howard has instructed them on what questions to ask and such. Anyway, I guess the content of the videos is pretty good – it’s all about the basics of studying the Bible. He divides it into three main sections. (1) Observation, (2) Interpretation, and (3) Application. It sets up a pretty good basic structure for how we should study the Scriptures. I hope that as we go further into it, I’ll have more to share. We’ll see.