Story: Connection Trumps Polish

19 10 2015

There is nothing like a good story. In children’s ministry, stories are king not only for capturing attention, but also for capturing the heart. In parenting, stories will do more to shape character than any lecture you can give. Stories can be personal, made up, read, told, acted out, shared in conversation or rehearsed for greater impact. Jesus used stories to grip his audience and point them to the Kingdom of God. Our culture of entertainment understands the power of story. Pixar with Disney is a powerful storytelling machine.

If there’s one thing to remember as a parent or leader when working to shape the character of the next generation of children, it’s simple: tell stories.

Visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.

-Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation

Jesus always used stories and illustrations like these when speaking to the crowds. In fact, he never spoke to them without using such parables.

-Matthew 13:34

When telling stories, I like to make sure I have the words exactly memorized. This can cause me trouble when I lose the allure and purpose of the story. Master storyteller, Steven James, reminds me to help the listeners connect with the story rather than to obsess about getting the words right. There is freedom to make ‘mistakes’ when the priority is getting absorbed in the transformational narrative.

Lord, help my stories become magnetic.

What If Jesus Didn’t Have Power Over Evil? (A Short Story)

23 01 2015

One day, Jesus went for an afternoon of sunbathing on his fancy boat. He was so excited to waste the day sipping lemonade, lying around and avoiding people except a couple friends. Of course there’s nothing wrong with resting once in awhile, but…well, you’ll see.

However, he eventually got tired of that so he wanted to stretch his legs. They took the boat ashore. When they got to land a strange man came around and Jesus said to his friends, “You know, I’m not really in the mood to talk to people or help them with their problems so let’s get away from this really weird guy, go back to the boat and get our scuba gear.injured-teddy-bear-cartoon_mku1JM

After they went scuba diving for awhile, Jesus got bored of that and was hoping to buy some dinner. They went back to land and found a restaurant where that strange man was again. This time he was holding a teddy bear and was twisting straws around it. Weird right? He asked Jesus to help him out.

Jesus was really annoyed, but gave the guy a couple dollars to go to the ice cream store across the street so he could send him away.

So he ran and got raspberry bugaboo ice cream, but came right back while Jesus and his disciples were eating lamb stew. SO ANNOYING!

The strange man looked like he could really use some help. You know, a little friendship, some emotional healing, a place to belong. But Jesus just said to him, “Sorry bud, there’s no hope for you! Evil wins this time.” And the man walked away sad.

Thankfully, Jesus does have power over evil and can help us overcome sin and fill the world with goodness!

-a strange twist on Mark 5:1-20

The One Story to Tell Your Family

9 05 2014

For me, I get overwhelmed sometimes when there are too many choices. We have a phrase in our culture when we have a question: “Just Google it.”

For wise and discerning people, that can be somewhat helpful. But I need more than a quick tip or a rabbit trail of opinions, I want a guiding principle for my family.

As a husband and a father, I want to have a single pursuit. I want to keep it simple. When there are too many good targets it can be hard to choose which one to shoot for. Let alone all the unhelpful targets that distract.

But when I know there is one great target, then I can train and focus on it and get better and better at hitting it.

That’s what Family Rhythm is: the strong, regular, repeated focus on one target or one story, really.

the story


Here’s the story: Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son.”

All of Scripture, really tells one story and that’s the story of God’s ongoing sacrifice to bring us into a restored relationship with himself through Jesus Christ.

How will you tell this story at many times and in many ways with your family?

My Mallory Weiss Tear

2 05 2013

I’m sure you can tell many of your own personal stories to your children. They will love hearing about them! Don’t neglect to pass on your journey to the next generation. They will benefit from your experience and the lessons you learned from it. Here’s one of my stories and a simple lesson you can teach your children.


from Wikipedia

One night a few years ago, there was some sickness going around. I got it. I started feeling a little queasy before bed. In the middle of the night, I woke up and was like, “Oh boy, here it is.” So I went downstairs knowing that I was going to throw up, but trying to think of anyway I could avoid it. You know, crackers and stuff. But nope, nothing was going to work. My body needed to throw up!

So it happened. Not cool, but something didn’t look right. What came out was kind of dark. So I was trying to figure out if I should go to the hospital or not. Cause I felt siiiick! I ended up going to the doctor and he said it’s probably just a virus. I came back home, but didn’t feel any better.

Later that morning, I threw up again. It was dark again. I’m thinking, “Now I know I threw up blood.” Ya gross right? So I went back to the hospital. I knew something wasn’t right, but there was NOTHING…I…COULD…DO! My wife came along with me and she said I looked white. I waited at emerge for somebody, ANYBODY to help me. I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I knew the doctors could help me. I trusted that they knew what to do and would take care of my problem.

I ended up waiting awhile and discovered that something had gone wrong inside my body. When I threw up, the doctor told me that I tore something inside me and they had to go inside and have a look. He said it was called a Mallory Weiss tear and sometimes happens with young, strong, powerful, good looking and amazing young men. Okay, okay that’s not all true, but he did say young and strong.

So they prepared me for an operation. They put me to sleep, for which I was SO thankful! Then they stuck a tube down my throat with a camera. They found a tear, then they used water to wash it away and clean me up inside. They couldn’t use stitches or anything, but I think the medicine they gave me helped to heal my wound.

I had to recover for awhile. The doctor said later that I had lost a lot of blood and was close to needing a blood transfusion, which just means I would need to get blood put into me. I’ll tell you what, I am SOO thankful for doctors and hospitals!!!

After that experience, I hate throwing up even more. I bet you hate throwing up too. Isn’t it so good to know that when we have problems with our bodies, we can go to hospitals and have doctors fix us up?

You could say this to your children: “We have a more serious problem than our bodies getting sick, injured and even dying! There is nothing we can do about this problem on our own. We need something far better than doctors. We need Doctor Jesus!”

[Jesus] told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” -Mark 2:17

Thought Beasts: A Parable

30 04 2013

God spoke to Cain: “Why this tantrum? Why the sulking? If you do well, won’t you be accepted? And if you don’t do well, sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it’s out to get you, you’ve got to master it.” Genesis 4:7

Our children have many thoughts and feelings that lead to many words and actions. Some beneficial and others…well not so much. They don’t know how to master them. Will you help them learn to control their thoughts so they can use them for good in this world? Will you help them avoid destructive choices? Here’s a story you can tell them!


Once there were two lads preparing to set off on their own and build their first home. The first lad was named Gumble. The second was named Victor. They had their tools and materials to begin setting up to build. They each entered the same vast forest filled with stunning flowers, towering trees, cute animals and…something else. Not long after, there appeared two tiny creatures. They were ugly little beasts. One was drawn toward Gumble and the other was drawn toward Victor.

One rainy day, as Gumble was working on his home, he began to think about the difficulty and dreariness of his work. His beast crept up and latched onto him without him even realizing it. Gumble began to…grumble. He was unhappy about being wet and about having to work in the cold. He was annoyed because of the flies and also because…three little neighbouring pigs and a wolf were being so noisy!

That same day, as Victor was working on his home, he was on the lookout for anything that might slow him down. Victor’s beast drew near, but he was ready. He had listened to the lore and legends about these beasts. One thing he learned about them was that they were the kind of beasts that feed on worthless thoughts. So he equipped himself with thoughts about how happy he’d be to complete his home deep in these beautiful woods.

The beast crept slowly up through the grass toward Victor. He snarled. His brow was furrowed. His teeth and claws were bared. He silently made his way close to Victor. Then…he pounced! …and bounced. You see, though the beast tried to latch on to Victor, it was unable. These beasts cannot cling to worthy thoughts only worthless thoughts. Now Victor had to work in the rain and the mud, with flies, spiders and pigs just like Gumble. But Victor knew how to be…victorious over the beasts. He thought about having a family in his new home and about the ways it could be decorated and the home theatre he would enjoy with ultra bass, crystal clear sound, HD vivid images and even a remote control, where he could watch the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Detroit Red Wings.

As the days went by, Victor completed his home and lived happily ever after. However, Gumble’s worthless thoughts began to multiply. He thought about his blisters, the searing heat, splinters and even how his sister broke his favourite toy jack-in-the-box back in kindergarten. Now Gumble didn’t pay attention to beast lore and what he didn’t know was that these beasts grow and cannot be seen while latched to a host filled with worthless thoughts. And as beasts grow, worthless thoughts turn to quibbles, quibbles become grumpiness, grumpiness morphs into angst and angst breeds a full-blown case of the heebie-jeebies! To this very day, Gumble’s house lays in an unfinished heap.

Steven James (Storyteller and Author)

20 12 2011

Steven James.

To learn about storytelling or to find some good novels check out the website (and blog) of Steven James.

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