You Ought to Put Those Stories in a Book!

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Around our house, weekends are often spent catching up.  Charlotte is teaching summer school and my weeks are generally full.  So much of what has to get done around our house will happen on Saturday.  Usually, there is mowing and weed-eating to be done (and yes, it is nice to have our youngest daughter home this summer to help with this).  There are clothes to be washed and usually somebody will make a trip to the grocery store.  Of course, Sunday falls in the middle of all this.  Generally, I will spend a few hours on Saturday, going over my notes.  I  will discover something that needs changing, adjusting, clarifying, etc.

Usually, we will try to do something fun during the weekend.   Last Friday evening, we met some very good friends at a Mexican restaurant.  After a great meal, we drove to a nearby Starbucks.  After getting drinks, we sat down to visit.  These friends are very comfortable people to be with.  So we sat outside Starbucks for a long time telling stories.  At one point, Charlotte turned to the guy and said, "You should write a book!"  (He should).

Our friend is a storyteller–and a good one.  Charlotte’s dad was a good storyteller as well.  His conversations and sermons would often be punctuated with a story or two.  These stories had color and detail.   He once told the story of an evening Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on a very special night, April 8, 1974.  He was missing the game.  The Atlanta Braves were playing the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This was the evening in which Hank Aaron would break Babe Ruth’s record for hitting the most home runs.  My father-in-law was scheduled to preach that evening in a North Alabama church.  He told of driving home afterward, very conscious that he had missed this great game.

He spoke of stopping at a traffic light and in the lane next to him, a friend pulled up in his car.  The friend’s electric window slowly began to come down.  "Hey Charlie!  Where were you when Hank Aaron hit number 715?"   My father-in-law said that for a few moments, he thought about the game and what had happened.  But then, he thought about what he had been doing that evening and the importance of preaching Jesus.  While he would have loved to have seen the game, he was doing something very significant.

Our stories tell us (and others as well) something about who we are.   This is especially true when we tell stories about ourselves.  I’ve noticed that people seem to really like stories I tell (in sermons or talks) where I have done something silly, foolish, goofy, etc.  (Maybe it is because I have plenty of those stories to tell!)  People willI often say something like, "You seem just like the rest of us!"  Uhh yes…

Yet, I think I know what they may be saying.  So often many of us appear to be so neatly packaged.  (Sometimes ministers in particular leave that impression–or attempt to anyway).  You know what I’m talking about.  There are some people who just seem to be very "together."  Yet, most of us are not that together.  The truth is, all of have our moments.  Our stories can reveal these moments.

So what is special about sitting outside a Starbucks with good friends telling stories?  It becomes special when you don’t worry about how you might appear.  You can just be you.  Loved by God and created like no other. 

Today, right now, you and I are in the middle of the story of our lives.  My story has depth and meaning only because I am connected to a much larger story.  This is the story of the one who came to the earth and lived as a human being for a few years.  Fully human and yet fully divine.   That is a story worth telling and hearing, again and again.

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10 thoughts on “You Ought to Put Those Stories in a Book!

  1. Jim,
    We were with a bunch of friends last night, too, and the laughter and the story-telling verged on the holy. Thanks for telling goofy stories on yourself. We have the treasure in very earthen vessels. Somehow, the paradox is, the more we express our earthiness or down-to-earthness, the more the treasure shines.

  2. Jim, I still laugh when I think of the time you did the Vern impression in a sermon. I think that one just slipped out. Sharon

  3. I only heard Charlses preach a couple of times, but he could use a story effectively! I think one of the few times I actually “went forward” because I was so touched by the power of the spoken word was when Charles preached at Woodlawn.

    There are few things in life more enjoyable that time spent with friends and sharing good stories.

  4. John,
    I love your last line, “…the paradox is, the more we express our earthiness or down-to-earthness, the more the treasure shines.” While I have made an intentional effort to be less self-conscious, this line is very motivating.

  5. Thanks Sharon,
    What a memory…As I recall, it did just slip out. I am amazed, years later, how many things still just slip out. Sometimes it has been good and sometimes a little embarassing.

  6. Greg,
    Many years ago, after hearing him preach, I wondered to myself, “Where does he get all of those stories?” Later, I realized that he had a keen sense for paying attention to life that was happening around him.

  7. Thanks Jim. Such a good post. And John’s comment too.

    There is something deadening about being around people who seem to have it all together and think they have all the answers. And there’s something deadening when I start worrying about measuring up to such.

  8. Hey Jim,

    Re the story about Dad and the Hank Aaron home run — a friend had actually offered to fly Dad with him over to Atlanta to go to that gametogether–great seats included. Dad was in a revival at Highland Park Church of Christ when Aaron broke the record. He told the story that night or the next night after the record was broken. I vividly remember the immediacy of that story and its having an impact on that audience in an otherwise ho-hum, summertime gospel revival where even a child’s T-ball game was heavy competition.
    The story has meant more to me as the years have gone by and now that I’ve attended a few major league ballgames and understand what a monumental achievement that was for Hank Aaron. Plus, it takes on an added dimension knowing some background on my dad’s dad, Walter Coil. I learned later that my grandfather had actually been recruited back sometimein the early 1900’s to play for a St. Louis Cardinals farm team but he turned them down because he had kids to feed and a crop to get in.
    To be able to say that you were among the elite few who were actually there when the maybe the most revered record in baseball was broken and you have the ticket to prove it … oh wow! But, I am absolutely sure that Dad didn’t hesitate a moment about turning the guy down due to the conflict with his speaking schedule. And, I’m also pretty sure that the import of that decision did not really settle in until after the fact.
    It reminds me of that scene in Chariots of Fire when Eric Liddell is asked if he had “any regrets” in turning down a chance to run for a gold medal in the Olympic Games due to his Christian scruples about keeping the Lord’s Day holy. His immediate reply was, “Yeah … no doubts though!”
    Dad regretted missing the chance to be at that game, but he had not doubts about his decision
    to preach the Gospel.

    Charlie (proud son)
    Charles R. Coil Jr.

  9. Thanks Charlie–a great moment in your Dad’s life. And–a great moment that continues to inspire as this story is told and retold.

    Just a nice picture of personal integrity and love for God.