Saturday, March 19, 2016

Stories as Gifts

I believe that God, as the Great Creator, places in each of us a potential for creativity. It is an aspect of the Image of God we read about in Genesis 1. With this potential is a desire to create, skilled artistry, and satisfaction when we do so or others do and we are the beneficiary. These desires come in all sorts of forms. 
Here I celebrate the gift of story, received, inspired, heard, spoken, written, and artfully demonstrated. Just look at the variety of illustrations in these 3 PBT books!
Some of us have been gifted with the ability to write or tell good stories. Certainly the scribes of the Old & New Testaments had these gifts. Their generosity benefits us to this day. 
Writing and telling are two demonstrations of God’s image in us. Our Great Creator delights in our creating in this way.
Some of us have been gifted with the ability to match story to reader. I hope this blog demonstrates that gift in me. Perhaps you know Bible teachers or passionate librarians that gift you in this way. Our Great Creator delights in our connecting stories to the people who need to hear them.
Then there are the listeners. My husband is one of these. He can talk with anyone and manages to ask just the right questions so that stories are told and connections are made. These story encouragers are not determined to tell their own stories so much as to hear others'. Our Creator God delights in our willingness to listen to others. Hearing their stories can offer affirmation and healing to both the teller and the listener. You know ministers and small group facilitators who can do this well. 
In all of these creative tasks, there is generous giving of stories. Here I offer 3 books that demonstrate each of these inclinations. These books contrast well. 
In the first you have a young child who is confident and enthusiastic about the stories he can write and share. 
In the second, you have a bit of a misfit who hides behind her books and has difficulty sharing them. It is only near the end of her life that she realizes that her stories are to be shared so that others can be transformed.
In the third PBT offering, you have one of my favorites. I posted about this picture book initially on June 22, 2014. Here it is in listening to and meeting the needs of others, that Bear's need to tell a story is satisfied and he can say goodbye for the winter.
Use these picture books in your ministry, teaching, or therapy practice to emphasize the importance of sharing stories - our own or someone else’s -  sacred or secular. Stories make connections, transform, teach, and delight. God wants us to engage in all of these creative tasks for the good of God’s kindom and the betterment of God’s world.

On the first page of this book Rufus decides that he isn’t going to have the traditional lemonade stand. Instead he’s going to have a story stand. 
Soon after setting up his station, potential customers come around. Rufus barters stories for special items that his friends bring him from their adventures. 
A sea shell is traded for a story about fish in the ocean. A new kitten is given to Rufus so he in turn gives a story called The Wallet and the Cat. Each time the children return for their stories, they sit down and read them immediately. 
The last story is presented as a birthday gift to Rufus little sister. As he reads it to her, all the children listen.
Picture Book: Rufus the Writer
Author: Elizabeth Bram
Illustrator: Chuck Groenink
Original Publisher & Date: Schwartz & Wade, 2015
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 4 and up, Pre and up
Formats other than Book: Tablet

In clever rhymed verse, the story of Elizabeth Brown - book lover extraordinaire, is told. Her passion for books is told not just through the words, but the captivating illustrations as well. 
Near the end of her life, when her house is so full that she cannot bring in another book, she goes to her town's courthouse and makes a donation: 
"I, E. Brown, give to the town all that was ever mine."
Picture Book: The Library
Author: Sarah Stewart
Illustrator: David Small
Original Publisher & Date: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1995
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 5 and up, K and up
Formats other than Book: audio cassette and dvd

As for Bear and his listening skills, his humility and devotion to his animal friends allows him to meet their needs rather than his need to tell a story. This is so hard! Yet we all know how healing it can be to be. And we see how Bear misses his friends when they are gone for the winter. 
When they return, they are finally ready to listen to Bear, but he's forgotten it. Instead, he begins a new story about how Bear had a story to tell. Let Bear inspire you to do more listening and less telling. That too is generous and can lead to relationships being transformed, particularly when vulnerability is present.
Picture Book: Bear Has a Story to Tell
Author: Philip K. Stead
Illustrator: Erin E. Stead
Original Publisher & Date: Roaring Brook Press, 2012
Age & Grade Appropriateness: 2 and up
Formats other than Book: Audible