This Is My Story

“In biblical Hebrew, there is no word for ‘history.’ Instead of ‘history,’ the word ‘memory’ is used. The idea is that history is someone else’s story, but memory is your own.”
–Heidi Johnston

The Settles Connection at Hutchmoot 2015, Photo by Mark Geil.

The Settles Connection at Hutchmoot 2015, Photo by Mark Geil.

Story, story, story. The word echoed through my weekend, shaped by various tongues. Once or twice it might have come out as “narrative,” a slight variant on the form, but the same essence.

“We tell stories from the image we hold in our hearts,” Jonathan Rogers said as he spoke of honoring our place—our hometown or family. We tell stories to support the thesis we have of “home.” We love our hometowns and our families, he reminded us, not because they are great, but because they are ours. “Remembering this lends the story to universality. Every human place has mythic experience.”

“Baseball is such a multi-purpose narrative tool,” said Russ Ramsey.

“The best way to tell someone you love them is to listen to them,” Michael Card said.

“This is not forever,” Heidi Johnston said. “We are just living in a day of a story that spans all of time.” She challenged us to be so immersed in the Bible that what we write tells the story of Scripture. If we speak only from our imagination without being anchored in truth, she said, we are only giving empty hope.

“Stories name our hopes we’ve hidden away and didn’t know we had,” said Doug McKelvey. “A song or a painting or a story can play on the imagination of the reader or the listener or the viewer almost in the same way a pianist can play on the piano keys.” Telling your story is throwing out a line and hoping that it connects with someone, he said. You’re inviting that person in as a third part of the creative process when they grip the line you’ve thrown out.

“Story is an invitation into a house that becomes a cosmos,” said Walt Wangerin. “What makes the story present and grants us the opportunity to be in the story at this present time is the telling.”

He reminded us of Deuteronomy 5, when Moses tells the story of Sinai to those about to enter the land. The generation who were there at Sinai are all dead, but Moses spoke to the generation before him as if the story were their own. His words echoed Heidi Johnston’s from earlier in the day, “History is someone else’s story; memory is your own.”

“Beware the man who makes himself the hero of his own story,” said Russ Ramsey in his sermon on Sunday morning. He combined the warning with this, “May we try to be brave, believing that trying to be brave is being brave because the author of life controls the narrative, and we are in his hands.”

On Saturday night, as the Settles Connection sang “Blessed Assurance” they invited us to sing along.

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.


This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

“This is my story…” My story.

My story is that of a bride adorned for her bridegroom.

My story is that of a people whose God chased after their wayward hearts like a lover.

My story is that of a hard-headed disciple who betrayed his best friend and his Lord, only to be restored over a coal fire on the beach.

My story is that of a servant, entrusted by his master with five talents and turning them into ten.

My story is that of a king who took what he lusted after and killed to keep his sin hidden.

My story is that of a man who took his son to the mountain to sacrifice him, only to learn that the God he served would never ask such a thing like the gods of his past did.

My story is the story of a group of people who came together to discover the strangers they’d met were already their friends.

My story is the tale of a people made in the image of God who once turned away from him, but found him a gracious God with mercies new each morning, who shows steadfast love thousands of those who love him and keep his commandments.

These stories are my own, so deeply pressed into my soul they’ve left a mark. That mark, when watered, will become the seed of new stories. And I can throw out those stories into the world like a line, awaiting a hand to catch them and tie them to the hand’s own stories. And the line will go out again and again, so that strand after strand after strand all lead back to the truest story of all: that of a God who loved his creation so much he lay down his own life to save it from its brokenness.

The Race That Knows Joseph

“They’re our kind of people,” Julie said.
It’s the sort of phrase that could be cruel. It could be unkind, exclusive, evasive. But the way she used it, it was none of those things.
“Couple on Two Benches”
George Segal
Source: Sculpture.org
She was referring to what Anne Shirley, as a child, called “Kindred Spirits.” Later, when she grew up, she adopted the term her friend Miss Cornelia used, “The race that knows Joseph.” I have no idea where L.M. Montgomery came up with that phrase. I presume she is referencing one of the biblical Josephs, but I honestly don’t know. I only know that she somehow found the perfect description for “our kind of people.”
The race that knows Joseph are actually a fairly broad and diverse lot. They like all kinds of different things. There does tend to be a bookishness about them, but they’re not limited by those books. There are scientists, athletes, English professors, historians, sea captains, and doctor’s wives…all who belong to the race that knows Joseph.
It’s a bit of an intangible descriptor. There are, after all, two biblical Josephs. I think an argument could be made for either one to be him who is referenced. The Old Testament Joseph, Jacob’s son – he of the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat – was a dreamer and an old soul. He was a gifted manager and strategic planner. Through his life he learned to see the big picture and to glimpse things from God’s perspective. I’d wager this is the Joseph that Montgomery’s Miss Cornelia is referring to, but I often wonder if maybe, just maybe, it’s the other one.
The other Joseph, the New Testament Joseph, of the house and line of David, is a quieter character than the Dream Coat Joseph. We only get a few chapters’ worth of glimpses into this Joseph – who also had a father named Jacob – but they are telling glimpses. He is a man who speaks with angels. A man who rises up and takes his pregnant fiancée into his home, marrying her despite the whispers of the people around them. He is a man who raises a Child he knows is not his own, a Child whose depth and wisdom are confounding to the carpenter. He works hard, and – it seems – he dies early, before seeing how the Boy he raised turned the world upside down.
I think both Josephs would be “our kind of people.” I think they both would find that chord of resonance with the other. But Technicolor Joseph would be up front leading the group, laying out the plan of events, and Carpenter Joseph would be working hard behind the scenes.
Whichever Joseph it is that we know, “our kind of people” all know him.

“You’re young and I’m old, but our souls are about the same age, I reckon. We both belong to the race that knows Joseph, as Cornelia Bryant would say,” said Captain Jim.

“‘The race that knows Joseph?’” puzzled Anne.

“Yes. Cornelia divides all the folks in the world into two kinds– the race that knows Joseph and the race that don’t. If a person sorter sees eye to eye with you, and has pretty much the same ideas about things, and the same taste in jokes–why, then he belongs to the race that knows Joseph.”

“Oh, I understand,” exclaimed Anne, light breaking in upon her. “It’s what I used to call–and still call in quotation marks ‘kindred spirits.’”

“Jest so–jest so,” agreed Captain Jim. “We’re it, whatever it is. When you come in to-night, Mistress Blythe, I says to myself, says I, ‘Yes, she’s of the race that knows Joseph.’ And mighty glad I was, for if it wasn’t so we couldn’t have had any real satisfaction in each other’s company. The race that knows Joseph is the salt of the airth, I reckon.”*

*Montgomery, L.M. Anne’s House of Dreams. New York: Bantam Books, 1992. p. 38. (©McClelland and Steward Limited, 1922.)