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Greg Brothers is an Adventist pastor in Oregon.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

In the beginning was the Word

It was a dark and stormy night.

Really.

My family was staying on the first-floor of the girl’s dormitory at Maple View Academy. We were there for Minnesota Campmeeting – and that night, there was a tornado watch.

Now my wife is from New Zealand; she had no idea what to do in case of a tornado.

But both my parents are from Kansas, and I’d grown up hearing stories about tornados – and if you’ve ever heard tornado stories, then you know they come in two, basic forms:

  • the siren went off, and they’d just made it to safety when the tornado hit.
  • the siren went off, and they didn’t make it to safety before the tornado hit.

And the moral of both stories, of course, is that you’d better not waste time when there’s a tornado around!

“Just grab a kid and go,” I told my wife. “The hallway outside our room is the designated shelter for this building; once we’re there, we’ll take stock and decide what to do next.”

With that, we went to sleep.

The next thing I knew, I was standing in the hallway outside our dormitory room, holding our eldest daughter. My wife was coming out of the room behind me, holding our youngest daughter, and closing the door to our room. And as she did so -- even as I was waking up -- I realized:

  • As soon as my wife closed that door, it would lock itself – and neither one of us had a key.
  • The hall was rapidly filling up with people. (This was the shelter for the whole dormitory, remember.)
  • And neither my wife nor myself was wearing anything more than we’d worn to bed that night – and it was a warm night!

In short, I’ve heard about pastors who’ve dreamt they were standing in front of an audience, wearing nothing but their underwear – but so far as I know, I am the only pastor who’s actually done it!

Now why did this happen? What made me to do something that modesty (and common sense) would normally have prevented?

Simple: it was the stories – stories I’d grown up hearing. Stories I’d grown up believing. Stories that shaped my life in ways I never could have imagined.

That’s why this week’s lesson is so important – for this week, we’re going to talk about the thoughts that shape the lives of our students. Not just the occasional daydream or fantasy, but the stories. The plots. The themes that give structure and meaning to their lives.

There are people in your class, for instance, who are trying to be The Little Engine That Could. Others see themselves as Huckleberry Finn. Still others who’ve spent their whole lives trying to find a happy ending for Romeo and Juliet.

So take the time, this week, to listen for the stories. Ask questions:

  • What was your favorite story as a child – and how did it shape your life?
  • If your life was a TV show, which one would it be?
  • How is the story of your life tied in with the story of Jesus?

And no, this is not just some vapid excuse to “get in touch with your own feelings.”

For stories are powerful, remember. Stories make a difference. And the person who believes in the wrong kind of stories is apt to find themselves in all kinds of trouble.

Even at Campmeeting.

Even in Minnesota.

Pastor Greg

And remember: “Values are rooted in narrative” – Harvey Cox.

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