Power of a Common Story

About a decade ago while watching my favorite surf video, I first stumbled upon the music of Mason Jennings.  Since that day, he has become both Janny and my favorite musician.  Any of you that went to our wedding heard his song as we walked down the aisle as a newly married couple (stalker alert #1)!!

Yes, his music is REALLY good, but more powerful than that are the stories that he tells through his profound and artful lyrics.  I still haven’t seen this genre on iTunes, but I like to call his music “hopeful protest.”  He isn’t willing to simply accept “the way things are,” while as the same time he paints beautiful word pictures of real life experiences that give a snapshot into a life and future rooted in common understanding.  It is in his asking the hard questions that he forces the listener to examine and search for truth (see his song titled “Jesus are you real”).

I know I am running the risk of sounding like the roady who goes to every show, only speaks in “Mason Metaphors” and isn’t willing to wear anything other than sweat pants, but that is a risk I am willing to take (stalker alert #2)…

Couple cool recent Mason encounters:

  1. Janny and I were able to meet and have some conversation with Mason after his recent show down here in San Diego (stalker alert #3).
  2. He offered me permission to publish some of his lyrics in my book(stalker alert #4).  Below is the first sneak peek inside Teaching Through the Art of Storytelling!  This passage ends with the lyrics from one of Mason’s songs.  Enjoy!

Excerpt from Pgs 59 & 60…

Standing in an ocean of people I’ve never seen before, I felt a connection.  This was the place where each of our personal stories connected and became one story, if only for a few glorious hours. Most of us stood on the floor looking up at Mason Jennings, a poet-activist-folk musician . . . and our favorite storyteller. Based on the responses of those around me, it seemed that each of us felt like he was telling our story. Of course, many of us were interested in different things, and some of us had very different moral and spiritual convictions. But for now, in this place, we were able to put that aside to be a part of something bigger.

This was not a “Christian” concert or rally but rather a kind of conversation.  Yet in this place, there was a sense of oneness. The lyrical sharing of lives and the stories that made up each of them was very real. And I could sense God here. God may not have been thrilled with what many in the crowd were doing (based on some the aromas I smelled from time to time), but that didn’t keep God from showing up in a real way.

Standing with my wife and a group of friends, I was blown away while listening to our voices singing songs in unison that asked profound, raw questions and called for change in the here and now. These songs looked at the parallel between the characteristics of Jesus and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. We were engaging in a message communicated through a beautiful, rhythmic medium that prompted many voices to rise together:

“Dr. King, I think often of you and the love that you learned from Jesus.

Alabama, Alabama . . . Bethlehem.

Dr. King, I think often of you and the love that you learned from Jesus.

Up ahead we have a mighty task, love the face behind hatred’s mask, on the day we understand our     past, God Almighty we’ll be free at last.

Alabama, Alabama . . . Bethlehem.”

Sorrow, Suffering and the Story of God

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to share among our former church family at Harbor Chapel Community Church. Janny and I hadn’t been there for a service since we completed our time on staff there almost a year and half ago. It was super fun to catch up with so many people that we care so deeply about and unbelievable to have so much love showered upon us we exchanged hugs. Honestly, it was quite humbling to be so loved by such a quality group of folks.

Jim York left the topic open to whatever we (Doyle Fikes partnered with me in the teaching by sharing a powerful family story of suffering) felt led. It was clearly going to be the most painful topic in light of the events of this past year, but with Janny’s insightful suggestion, we chose the topic of Sorrow, Suffering and Grief. Having been surrounded by my students’ stories of sorrow/suffering and culminating in the loss of our first child in October, there is no other reality that is more central to our current life story. Being able to share our pain and encourage others to fully embrace theirs was a liberating and somber experience. Suffering is central to the Story of God and if we simply shrug off the sacred time of grieving for some form of cheap/fake “happy thoughts,” then we have forgotten our story as individuals and forgotten the Story of God we are to participate in today.

Friends/family at Harbor Chapel, thanks for not fast forwarding through the suffering, but instead sharing in the pain with us. Your stories were raw, painful and tragic…in is that honesty that we are caused to remember the Story…and in the midst of sobbing, experience hope.

Listen to the talk here: (Doyle Fikes starts the talk and I pick it up @ minute 17)

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