Posts filed under story

why i write {preston's guest post}

It takes autumn some time to get here, at least late September and that’s if it really wants to come. I walk the path through the trees under the watch of the late summer sun, among the limbs and branches that soon be cut down to make room for housing and the endless turn of progress. I touch tree trunks and am suddenly aware of that miracle of knowing something older than myself, that existed before I ever was and may, for these are uncertain days, exist in this space a little while after. I could lament much.

I could lament that in our world of social media, we’re all expected to have the attention span of goldfish. I could lament that in our world of sound bites, we’re all expected to have a sense of revulsion toward the novel. I could lament that in days gone by, books and their readers were inseparable entities, communing together, and this was considered a respectable way of life.

But lamenting untrue things is not a very wise way to spend one’s time.

For as much as I would like to think that there was a time when readers were readers and books were books, such a time never existed. This problem of not being true and faithful readers of a text is very old indeed. For there is another Text, of a different sort, that has met its share of readers that could not, despite all their attempts to decipher and know, discern the deeper things.

When the Pharisees criticized Jesus, it was from a standpoint of assuming, rather dangerously, that they had figured out the whole of the Text in its entirety. Everything had been codified, sorted, accounted for. There were no questions. Answers abounded.

But this was foolish, not to mention quite arrogant.

And Jesus, being Jesus, went about undermining this whole arrangement in the most absurdly beautiful way. While there are many places in the gospels that our Lord teaches directly, He mostly teaches with story.

They are not easy stories. They are stories that are disagreed about. They are stories that surprise the audience. They are stories that confront the brutality of the self in all its squalor and failing and, in the same turn of phrase, brings it back to the comfort of home.

When Jesus was asked once why he taught in parables, He quoted from the psalms to explain that it was so those seeing would not see and those hearing would not hear. That is, those already thinking to know, to have seen, to have heard, and thinking that there is nothing else to be gleaned, would walk away from such stories empty-handed, for their hands were never open to receive in the first place.

There have always been readers who have the attention span of goldfish and who are more interested in sound bites.

This is why we need those who listen carefully. 

The stories of Jesus have an infinite density, able to be returned to again and again throughout the course of a life, each time discerning something new, seeing something afresh. It is tightly bound wisdom, ready to be pulled at, unraveled, only to find that the spool never stops spinning and the thread never thins.

And this is a beauty unspeakable and a mystery profound.

We who write, who consider words our tools and gifting, participate in a kind of mimesis. Holy Ghost, if we are willing, if we listen, guides our hands to weave faithful stories, poems, songs, and letters that bare in them traces of these older stories, the things we’ve hear, these wise things from the deep heart of our Father.

I was asked recently why I write, because it seems to do very little good.

I smiled and answered that it has something to do with our Lord, who told stories even though it seemed to do very little good.

Somehow, it turned out all right for Him.

I believe that if I am faithful in consecrating this gift unto Him, so shall it turn for me.

So this, then, small as it may be, is the reason to write.

Like autumn here some things come late, but come nonetheless. Some trees are cut down, yet they in their time knew what it was to grow. Everything has its season and there is a harvest to be had, even if we are not the ones to reap.

Write on, dear friend, there is a purpose, a time, a reason, a good in this too.

Preston Yancey is a senior at Baylor University earning his degree in Great Texts of the Western Tradition with a focus in medieval literatureand theology. He also ended up with a minor in Political Science specialized in East Asian foreign and domestic relations, which he contends happened by accident. He makes his home where he can, being found often enough either in an airport or in a car on the way to the next destination, from Waco to Chicago to London to Beijing and beyond. He runs on a diet of caffeine and God's grace. Someone once called him a hipster, which he tweeted. He keeps his own blog at SeePrestonBlog.

Posted on September 12, 2011 and filed under creativity & rest, story.

embracing the story

in my classroom, there's a cut-out from a magazine of one of my friends holding a sign that says a story can change the world. i've believed this for some time. i bought into the whole "share your story" thing long before movies like freedom writers hit theaters. i repeat the sentiment ad naseum with my students to the point where at the end of the year, most of them tell me they will never forget the importance of story - or my obsession with it. and obsession is a good word. place me with other story-theorists and i can lose track of time talking about development and conflict and building a scene - but what really quickens my pulse? talking about your story.

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i'm sharing over at beautifully broken today - click here to read more.

Posted on June 7, 2011 and filed under story.

purpose & pain

lately God's been reminding me of Who i belong to - the master Creator and Storyteller bending low and whispering truths to counter the lies. and i've been overwhelmed by the way He chooses to pull us close. it's not just a tender nudge of our hand, a slight push in the right direction. nope. this wooing  is violently beautiful and reminiscent of poets who experienced the same wind-whipping knowledge of His presence - batter my heart, three-personed God.

earlier this week, i almost missed it. scrawled on the pages of half the church, carolyn custis james writes of conflict within the Story of God. she says it's easy to imagine living as God's image bearers in the garden of Eden. but here?

"what does it mean to bear God's image here...in the mess where the fall is much worse than we ever imagined?"

she then quotes peter - the book that keeps pulling me in and reminding me the reason for my suffering. don't be surprised when bad things happen to you, he says. these sacred words that bring the reality "we experience but wish to deny: that we and our world are broken, that this side of eternity we will drink deeply of that brokenness, and there will be thorns we can't shake off that accompany us to our graves."

and i sat there reading, tears falling freely, wondering how she knew.

wednesday night i spoke with storytellers at my church. i mentioned how i was in a season where God seemed to be screaming my name. everywhere i turn, His heart for me beats wildly through stories and creatives who are answering His call. it started four years ago and the trickle of realization has turned into a downright deluge at the precise moment my emotions are tapped.

and i know now: my Savior hard-wired me for understanding the conflict within a story so i can point others to the Conflict - we are all broken. we are all messy. and we are in desperate need of the Hero.

and so my feminine heart danced when i read the words of James -

the challenge for us is not to insulate ourselves from conflict (which we ultimately can't do anyway) or to accept it fatalistically, but rather to lean into the conflict - to face it head on and to engage it. we must ask the hard questions about God, about ourselves, about the state of things in our world, about the meaning of hope and joy and purpose. but we must also respond to what conflict asks of us.

...we must also respond to what conflict asks of us.

i think about this past year. about the hurt, the anger, the questions, the doubt, the joy, the pain, the breaking and remolding only to be broken again...

and i know He's refining me. i know the violent beauty of His wooing results in my freedom and healing. but what then? even in the midst of my pain - even if my past becomes the thorn in my side i'll never escape from - what's the purpose of these trials here on earth?

this is where the hope keeps. because in the midst of our pruning a greater story takes place - one of redemption and purpose.

that's when i feel the rush of His whisper against my cheek - the warmth of His hand leading me into His presence.

My purpose for you waits within your greatest pain, child. rest in Me. believe in my Story for you.

and i think of the Cross - of the fabric-splitting grief and the grittiness of new life. i really have no other choice but to believe.

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i am giving away a copy of half the church - recapturing God's global vision for women. if interested, let me know in the comments why you want to read the book - and i'll announce the winner on monday.

Posted on April 8, 2011 and filed under books, story.

pastel colored memories

as a little girl, easter meant a new dress. preferably white but most assuredly spring-like. i'd let the new fabric fall over me as i got dressed that morning, anxious not for church but the basket of goodies waiting for me on the table. my memories are painted pastel with hidden treasures in ankle high grass and the familiar sound of family laughing. honey ham. cascarones. afternoon naps. school holidays. warm sunshine and a belly ache from too much sugar. a rugged Cross never filled my senses because i was too busy biting the ears off chocolate bunny and shaking free the pennies and dimes from plastic easter eggs. now, it's different because i realize the cost. i know my filth.

and i know pain.

this isn't the dull ache from a disappointment. i'm not talking about failed expectations or the anger from arguing with a loved one.

this pain comes with the electric shock of memory. it suffocates and breaks and steals my words. there have been nights where i grab the hand of my husband who loves me even still and i'm forced to let the deepest places mourn. the tears don't stop easily those nights, and i usually wake up with the puffy-eyed look of spending my dreams walking on the holy ground of suffering.

the pain is raw and new and i still struggle with the desire to push it down into the crevices of my deep-dark. but it always comes again - there's no hiding from memory, and i've learned the quickest way to heal is to let Him break clean and swift. i've tried coping mechanisms. i know what it means to eat my pain and i know the feeling of detachment.

and falling into those habits again leaves me breathless for One who purifies wounds most infected with lies.

this is what makes me desperate for the Cross - He is the only One who knows the pain of breaking to be made whole.

i was slow in learning this. for 28 years i lived with the thought of His resurrection as my ticket to freedom. i never anticipated the community of suffering. i never imagined i'd find myself bent double with pain and gripping the bloody scars of His own hand just to stay upright.

but here i am. and in the midst of pain and tears and an exhaustion that goes marrow deep, i've never felt more hope.

and isn't this how it's supposed to be? isn't this the story of redemption? the greatest Story mirrored in our own three-act structure of conflict and minor resolution? at the darkest hour, when all seemed lost and mary wept for her son and His best friends questioned the purpose of pain, hope shook the earth clean. and as my sister says, "while Easter morning sings of salvation, it also brings a deep, unmoving, Strong Tower of Joy to those who are in pain."

my heart still cowers in the corner. there are days where my pain clouds my view and detachment is far easier than taking off my mask and showing vulnerability. even on my best days, i fight the inclination to hide. but i know now the moment life's pain came crashing into my comfort was a blessing from One who loves me enough to break me so i can be made whole.

and though i may walk with a limp, my gait sings of someone who knows the heart of One who Defended and Protected when no one else claimed responsibility.

i would take this truth over pastel colored memories any day.

i'm linking this post up with ann from Holy Experience who is generously offering a she speaks scholarship.

she speaks is a conference where women learn how to step out with the message God has given them. in her post, ann quoted job 32:18 - "for i am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me." it was this verse that pushed me to submit a post for consideration. my words are not my own but His, and i feel Him leading me to share my story of healing. i am not there yet - there are days where i still thumb my nose in rebellion because the pain seems too great. but He is faithful and there is Hope in our darkness because He conquered the grave. and these past few months i've learned whatever the memory, whatever the pain, He knows and desires nothing more than to heal.

Posted on March 29, 2011 and filed under story.

tension.

we spoke of story last night. huddled around a wooden table, warm in our sweaters and scarves, we escaped the bone crushing cold. a society of hope, out-of sorts and willing to live in perpetual tension. we view the world differently, we see the rays cascading down the sky and know it's origin. we allow feeling in order to grow, in order to push us into the moment of muse where words fall unheeded onto a page.

we are the storytellers.

we recognize the solitude of our art but crave the yes of others, the eye gaze of one similar. and so last night, bent low together as we wrestled with the goodness of Him - the ultimate Storyteller - i felt my heart come alive.

sometimes i wrinkle my brow in frustration. sometimes, i view this gift of perpetual tension as a thorn in my side. why must i be different? goodness knows the simple emotions associated with this craft can be heavy burdens for anyone. sometimes i wish to be logical, sometimes i wish i wasn't a dreamer.

sometimes i forget my purpose.

living in tension allows me to see things others miss. living in tension bends my heart toward the suffering of others. it may not be easy, but this dreaming soul needs to welcome the thoughts and hopes and prayers given to me by the Creator of my story - no one likes a rogue character. and the words coming to me in the blackest of moments may be raw but they are holy and true - evidence of One who breaks in order to restore.

so i sat there, listening to others willing to turn their backs on the expected in order to reveal the true Hero, my heart began to breathe again.

it's always good to remember. and last night as i braced myself against the wind and walked to my car, i knew something within me changed. for once, i believed His purpose for me. for once, the dream He's placed in my heart began to root deep into places i've cut it off. i don't know why it's difficult for us storytellers to dive into His purpose of speaking through us His love and truth, but slowly, i'm finding this changing.

and more than ever before, i know it's vital for me to be comfortable in my own skin - even if it takes me to places from which i ache to be free.

Posted on February 3, 2011 and filed under story.