Echo 13 - Tell Your Story

I'm sure a lot of you have heard this before about my generation (I'm 24, so whatever the name of that generation is), "You kids think you're the center of the universe because you grew up in a world with Xanga, MySpace, Facebook and Twitter and that made you think that everyone needs to know every little thing you're doing and that they care. Dumb kids!" So that might be a more harsh version than what has popped up in articles and studies, but that's how my brain took it. It shut me up, or down, I don't share about myself and my experiences because, who cares? It's not really about me anyway so what does my experience have to do with anything? Remember how one of the people Echo advertises for is "Storytellers"? Well, having this sort of mindset going in, I totally dismissed that part of the advertising and went in as solely an "Artist" and nothing else. I've come out of this experience feeling very much like a novice storyteller. The very first session I walked into (after mistakenly thinking that a Main Session was first and proving myself a fool in front of my whole team right off the bat), was called "Telling Stories on Sunday" by Scott McClellan. I walked out of this session completely converted to story. Scott posed to us starry-eyed Echo-ers "Where are you taking me?" the question every person in our audience is asking us. I thought "Hey, good question, I'll sketch that in a cool typographic way!" and then he started laying down the good stuff faster than fancy note taking could keep up. As a young twenty-something with the viewpoints I've held lately, Scott reminded me that the Bible is written as a Story, and that God himself called us to be HIS storytellers "and you will be my witnesses..." (Acts 1:8) Notice the Bible says "be" not "do," it's something that should be ingrained in the very fabric of our being, God's own storytellers. Because it is something we are, stories should leak into every aspect of our lives. For me that says a lot professionally. Every graphic, every video, every advertising campaign, every social media plan should be part of, or in itself a story that brings an individual from point A to point B. Scott really helped a silly person like me see how these possibilities were endless by sharing different types of stories: personal experience, imaginative, and vision casting. As you can imagine, my brain nearly exploded when I started thinking about the impact that stories built in these simple ways could have on my community, the one I'm responsible for communicating to, and had been doing a mediocre job of. (If my Executive Pastor reads that sentence he's going to have a cow because it ends in a preposition, but it's my blog so I do what I want).

I went on to the next session with Dawn Nicole Baldwin where the idea of storytelling as advertising and sharing was driven in a little further home. Dawn really did a fantastic job of giving guidelines of how we can push our story through the noise of our culture. She gave some really specific goals for communicators to take a bunch of information and filter it through the lens of the story we are trying to tell in that moment/quarter/year. I won't get into all of that greatness, because it's mostly stuff that will bore you and keep me up all night at this point.

The next day one of the main sessions was a fantastic blitz of really smart people throwing really good information at us. Two of those guys, Steven Brewster and Whitney George both emphasized the role of storytelling and I'm just going to write my notes as they are because they are fantastically written notes: "Let our motivation be to move people from A to B instead of creating art for self praise." - Steven Brewster; "Your ideas are great because they pass through authentic you." - Whitney George. That last quote leads me really nicely into my plane ride home...

On the way home I started reading Scott McClellan's new book "Tell Me a Story" and I almost finished the whole thing on the plane. I still have almost finished it because I haven't stopped and made time for myself to read for pleasure at all since I've been home. Anyways, this book y'all, is very good. Scott takes the time to first convince you why story is good (which he had already done at Echo for me) and then walks you through each component of a story and compares it to the life of a Christian person. Now you may think that this sounds like a book for writers, but it's not, it's for Christians, it's for former Christians, it's for burned out Christians, it's for doubting Christians, it's for strong Christians. One of the things he reminds you of in this book is that, guess what, the Bible is written as a story and as you read it, you should read it like a story. Picking it apart verse by verse looking for answers without considering the entire story handicaps the entire thing. I almost said renders it useless, but I'm pretty sure God can still work through our abuse of his book. I grew up and have spent most of my life treating the Bible this way, as a self-help reference or a spiritual guide guru hoping that if I just flip the page open and point that I will have a huge life revelation and all of my troubles will be solved. I've even used the Bible as an argument tool to prove that I'm right and you're wrong, :P, go sit on a log now. After reading this book, I realized that I've been missing the entire point, well almost. Right now I'm retraining myself to read Scripture with the entire story in mind, and with my story in mind because...

My story is God's story. What? This is such a simple concept now that I can't believe took me so long to understand. When I stifled my own story, my own experiences, my own pains and victories, I'm stifling the story of the Living God. As much as he worked through the people in the Bible, he's working through me now and the same goes for you as you seek him in your life. I'm attempting to live life understanding the story I'm in. Understanding that without pain and conflict, it wouldn't be a story, it would just be stagnant me, the same me from 10 years ago. Without hard work, I'm living pointlessly, following nothing that God has for me. I'll end this post with an amazing tidbit shared by Donald Miller in another main session: What if God has a purpose, an end goal, a Point B for your life, but he hands you the crayons of the journey and says to us "Make the journey meaningful and beautiful!" then allows you to draw?