Growing up, holidays felt like going through the motions. Drive to this house, open these presents, visit here, eat here. We were engaging in the larger cultural traditions, but nothing seemed specific or intentional.
While we weren't doing anything special I would sit with my Dad and watch movies. James Bond marathons during Thanksgiving, war movies and westerns on the patriotic holidays, the Grinch on Christmas. We'd laugh. My Dad was a living IMDB for all westerns and the actors in them. One frame of film, and he knew which John Wayne movie it was. (Confession, they all seemed the same to me.)
I didn't know it at the time, but this was laying the groundwork for the tradition I now live, breath, and study. The tradition of storytelling.
It wasn't until college, that I started to learn about this tradition, and it wasn't until a few years into my career that I began to see this tradition all around us.
As a commercial producer I learned that products and services are sold with stories. As a freelancer, sitting down with clients and helping them discover their story and how to tell it was one of the most thrilling parts of the work. While working on spiritual teaching videos I learned that stories are what connect people with our scriptures, experiences and traditions.
The Gospel of Luke exist because of the tradition of storytelling. (Luke 1:1-4) In fact, it was the spreading of the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection that the Christian faith began to spread and still exist today. This story invites you into a grander narrative written by the Author of life (Acts 3:15), it helps you make sense of and reinterpret your own story.
I was first drawn to filmmaking because I was in awe of the power of stories. How could images on a screen make me laugh, cry, hold my breath, and cheer all in the course of 2 hours? Because stories have power, and we all can access that power. Have you told a joke? You told a story. Shared with a friend how your day was going? You connected to them with story. Put words to grief or a struggle? Telling your story has power to heal you and help others. The story of our faith, has the power to change the world.
The closet thing that my family had as a tradition was taco night. The warm tortillas, the earthy spicey fragrance of the ground beef, the buffet of colorful toppings, bliss.
Friends showed up for taco night.
No recipe here, just grab your favorite protein, a taco seasoning packet or two, and some toppings. Make it as simple or spectacular as you desire.
Then invite some friends. There is nothing formal about taco night. No one is sitting down at the same time, you cycle in and out of the assembly line, notice and discuss the various strategies for taco construction, experiment. Tell some stories, listen, and laugh.
Want to kick it up a notch? Get a skillet, preferably cast iron, and fill it with about ⅛” of vegetable oil. Heat it over medium-high heat, and lightly fry a your corn tortilla, just a little on each side. Now you are enjoying “Wendland Family Tacos”.
Ulysses - Josh Garrels - Love & War & The Sea In Between
This song is not only beautiful and powerful, but it is inspired by the ancient story of The Odyssey by Homer. A story from around 800 BC still has impact today.
Jesus, Author of Life, invite me into your narrative, help me better understand it, help me dive deeper as a participant in it.
Help me understand my own story, help me embrace all parts of its. I praise you for the joys, I thank you for the valleys, I await and strive towards the climax of not just my story, but the story you are telling for everyone.
Help me share my story with others, help me listen to theirs.
Stories have structure. There is an “inciting incident” that kicks a story off, there are the struggles and triumphs and anticipations that point us towards the final climax of the story. When we reach the climax, everything is on the line. Will we fail in spectacular fashion, or will we arise triumphant?
It’s not always as dramatic as an epic action adventure movie, it can be very subtle and simple.
Practice telling your story this way. When someone ask you how was your day think about it. What started my day in a certain direction? What were the ups and downs? How did it resolve?
Tip: Think about how your story is going to end first, then start from the beginning knowing where it all is leading.
Soon you will start to be use the tradition of storytelling more naturally and powerfully, and even help people make sense of their own story as well.