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When The Big One Hits

What's Up This Week: "When the Big One Hits"
A Story to Live By: "What's God Up To?"
Sermon Starters: "In the Wake of the Storm" by John Sumwalt
"The Storm Voice and the Voice of God" by Anne Le Bas
Modern Epistle: "Dispatch from the Front" by Steve Philip
Scrap Pile: "The Tremendum of Whirlwinds" by Steven Fortney
"Response to the Poem from a Friend" by Sue D'Alessio

What's Up This Week

When the Big One Hits

"We've been shaken, we've been jolted, but we're saying yes to life," said Rev. Cecil Williams at Glide Memorial United Methodist Church in San Francisco after the devastating earth quake in October of 1989. Speaking to many members who were already homeless and poor, Williams said, "...it's important for us to be shaken -- rich, poor, and middle-class. This quake shook us all, and now we have a common problem and need common solutions" (New York Times, October 23, 1989).

All of us have been shaken by Hurricane Katrina. The catastrophic effects of the storm will be felt for years to come. Katrina may well have a bigger and longer-lasting impact on our way of life than 9/11. For those of us who preach and teach in the church the immediate issue is to find just the right words to say in worship and church school classes these next few Sundays. Many of us will set aside business as usual as we come to grips with the meaning of these events and look to God to guide us through our sea of change, as he guided the Israelites through the sea so many years ago.

Cecil Williams "...reflected that earthquakes are leveling forces in many ways, not merely in the buildings and bridges they topple. 'Folks who think they have everything,' he said, 'when the big one hits, they're like everybody else.' " We do indeed have a "common problem and we need common solutions."

This issue of StoryShare is devoted to resources that may be helpful to those looking for just the right idea or the right story to give comfort, inspiration, and hope in the aftermath of Katrina. John's Sermon Starter describes the aftermath of the tornado that damaged 80 homes and destroyed two-thirds of the trees in Jo's hometown two weeks ago. Check out Steven Fortney's powerful poem in this week's Scrap Pile, written in the aftermath of a killer tornado that struck Stoughton, Wisconsin, the same day, the day after a church burned down on the main street. The e-mail Epistle, written by a pathologist from the Ritz-Carlton on Canal Street in New Orleans this week, is chilling.

If you have stories, sermons, poems, or anything else that you are willing to share with other StoryShare readers that may help in ministering to those impacted by Katrina, we would like to hear from you ASAP. Write to us at jsumwalt@naspa.net.

A Story to Live By

What's God Up To?

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them; the sea covered them; they sank like lead in the mighty waters. Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in splendor, doing wonders?
Exodus 15:10-11

Lewis Smedes, a retired seminary professor and now deceased, writes in his memoirs of a time he wondered "What's God up to?" Smedes describes his Calvinistic understanding of God in this way: "God's face had had the unmovable serenity of an absolute sovereign absolutely in control of absolutely everything. Every good thing, every bad thing, every triumph, every tragedy, from the fall of every sparrow to the ascent of every rocket, everything was under God's silent, strange, and secretive control." But Smedes' understanding of God was rocked by the birth and death of his son in the same day. "I could not believe," Smedes writes, "that God was in control of our child's dying."

A pious neighbor came to offer comfort and reminded Smedes and his wife that "God was in control." The grieving father wanted to say to her, "Not this time." In later reflections on this moment, he writes: "It seems to me that the privilege of being the delicate organisms we are in the kind of world we live in comes at a price. The price is that things can go wrong, badly wrong sometimes, which should come as no surprise." (excerpted in Christian Century, May 3, 2003, p. 38)

Sermon Starters

In the Wake of the Storm
by John Sumwalt

But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.
Exodus 14:29

And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. A windstorm arose on the sea, so great that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him up, saying, "Lord, save us! We are perishing!" And he said to them, "Why are you afraid, you of little faith?" Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the sea; and there was a dead calm. They were amazed, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?"
Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus asked his disciples why they were so afraid of the storm. There are many among us (and I am one of those) who have found themselves deeply afraid during the storms of the past several days. When the news came that a tornado had devastated Jo's home town of Viola in southwest Wisconsin, our hearts were in our throats as we waited to find out if her mother and her two aunts had survived, not to mention a host of friends and neighbors. When we drove past the rubble of hundreds of damaged homes, mangled trees, and stumps in every yard, we felt deep fear and wonder. It could have been much worse.

It was much worse in Stoughton, Wisconsin (near Madison) on the same day -- where the tornado flattened a whole subdivision, took one life, and left many homeless.

As bad as this was, it pales in comparison to the news reports we have been watching of the horrific devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Many of us have found ourselves weeping as we have beheld the heart ache the storm has brought into so many lives. And we have been afraid all over again as we have considered the long-term effects it will have on our nation for years to come. Katrina may well have a bigger and longer-lasting impact on our way of life than 9/11.

Why wouldn't we be afraid?

Like the disciples, we are afraid because in our panic we forget -- we lose touch with the power which is available to each of us. Jesus didn't do anything on that boat that any of the disciples couldn't have done. That's why he was irritated with them for waking him. "Have you no faith?" There were no magic words. Jesus had no powers that the disciples did not have. He taught his disciples to do everything that he did:
heal the sick;
cure lepers;
raise the dead;
feed the hungry;
set captives free;
die to set others free.

He told them, "You will do greater things than I have done." Everything that Jesus had power to do, he gave his followers the power to do too -- faith to move mountains! They did all the things Jesus had done as they learned to have faith.

Now if you come to this story, or any biblical story for that matter, with the question "Did it really happen?" you are going to miss the point. We could stay here all day debating whether or not the miracles of Jesus literally occurred. Some would declare that they did and insist that every Christian must believe in them. Others would just as steadfastly maintain that the laws of nature cannot be denied, no matter what scripture says. And a great many others would go home wishing they hadn't come. I don't want to argue the point.

No, the questions we must ask of this story, and every biblical story, are "What does it tell us about God?" and "How is it my story?" What does it tell us? God is to be feared more than anyone or anything else. Why? Because God has power over everything. "Even the wind and the waves obey him."

And it tells us that a person of faith can calm storms. Do you know that the disciples found this fact more disturbing and more frightening than the storm itself? Mark says that after Jesus quieted the storm the disciples "were filled with great awe" -- that is, they were terribly afraid. And this time it was not the storm they feared, but evidence of God acting in their midst. It is frightening to witness the power of God firsthand!

The opposite of faith in Mark's gospel is not doubt, but fear. Those who live in fear show a lack of faith.

There are many kinds of storms that come into our lives. Natural disasters can be devastating. How many have experienced a tornado, flood, hurricane, earthquake? How many of you have experience a house fire? One thing we can be certain of in Wisconsin is that there will be storms; summer storms and winter storms. And periodically they will be devastating and deadly. No community and no person is immune. It is the same with the storms of life.

Storms can come quite unexpectedly. Suddenly, in the middle of the night, there is a telephone call. Could you please come to the hospital? You are met there by a doctor with a serious expression who says to you, "We have done all that we can. We just weren't able to save him." Suddenly you are faced with the tragic news that you have lost a husband or a wife, or a son or a daughter, or a friend or a parent.

You may receive a call from the doctor's office. You need to come in for a consultation. The doctor comes in and says, "I am sorry to have to tell you this, but the test indicates that there is a malignancy."

Or one day you come home to find that your spouse has decided that the marriage isn't working and that a divorce is the only answer --
or a child runs away from home;
or you are fired on the job;
or you experience retirement;
or you fail a course you thought you were doing well in;
or you sustain an injury in your senior year, just after you made the team for the first time;
or you find out you're pregnant just after breaking up with your boyfriend;
or you have a totally unexpected illness that demands the changing of your entire lifestyle.

Storms come. They leave us devastated and confused. There are many kinds of storms.

The good news in all of this is that there are usually disciples of Jesus around who know something of the power of God and who have faith enough to stand up and say, "Peace! Be still!"

I never cease to be amazed that when I am called to the hospital or a home during some crisis I find another member or two of the church there ahead of me. And I'm not talking about a handful of people. I've been here long enough now to have seen quite a number of you, young and old, in that kind of circumstance. You probably didn't think about it this way, but you were calming a storm. By your very presence you were saying, "Peace! Be still!" (Presence is the key to calming storms.) There is a great need for storm-calmers in this world -- people who stand up in the midst of crisis and say, "Peace! Be still!"

During the worst days of the Civil War, an old friend of Abraham Lincoln's, a shopkeeper from Springfield, Illinois, named Billy Brown, decided he'd travel to Washington to see his old friend, the President of the United States. An aide to the president asked him if he had an appointment.

"No, sir," replied Billy. "I ain't, and it ain't necessary. Maybe it's all right and fitting to have appointments, but I reckon Mr. Lincoln's old friends don't need them, so you just trot along and tell him Billy Brown's here, and see what he says."

The aide frowned, but went. In about two minutes, the door popped open and out came Mr. Lincoln, face aglow. "Billy," he said, pumping his friend's hand, "now I am glad to see you. Come right in. You're going to stay to supper with Mary and me."

As soon as Mr. Lincoln could discharge his immediate responsibilities, the two men went to the back of the house, sat down on the stoop, and, as Billy later put it, "talked and talked. He asked me about pretty nigh everything in Springfield. I just let loose and told him about the weddings and the births and funerals and the buildings, and I guess there wasn't a yarn I'd heard in the three and a half years he'd been away that I didn't spin for him. Laugh -- you'd ought to hear him laugh -- just did my heart good, for I could see what they'd been doing to him. Always was a thin man, but, Lordy, he was thinner than ever now, and his face was kind of drawn and gray -- enough to make you cry."

Late that evening, Billy said good-bye. The President tried to get him to stay the night, but Billy, not wanting to impose, declined. As they parted, Lincoln said, "Billy, what did you come down here for?"

"I came to see you, Mr. Lincoln."

"But you ain't asked me for anything, Billy. What is it? Out with it."

"No, Mr. Lincoln, just wanted to see you -- felt kind of lonesome -- been so long since I'd seen you, and I was afraid I'd forget some of them yarns if I didn't unload them soon."

Lincoln gazed into his friend's eyes. "Do you mean to tell me you came all the way from Springfield, Illinois, just to have a visit with me; that you ain't got no complaints in your pockets or advice up your sleeve?"

"Yes, sir. That's about it."

Tears came into Lincoln's eyes and ran down his cheeks. "I'm homesick, Billy, just plumb homesick, and it seems as if this war would never be over. Many a night I can see the boys dying in the fields and can hear their mothers crying for them at home, and I can't help it, Billy... You'll never know just what good you've done me."

Friends help us get through the worst storms in our lives.

Storms force us to look within ourselves to examine our souls and our hearts -- to reach down into the depths of our beings and touch the eternal that is within us.

For many of us a devastating storm or illness has been a blessing, because for the first time in our lives we are required to look beneath the surface of things, to think about our relationship with the Creator. In his book Who Dies? author Stephen Levine says:

"Some have told me they have looked their whole life to find a teacher or a teaching that would bring them into some deeper wholeness, and that at last it turned out to be their illness, that it was cancer that became the teacher, the mirror for the truth. For many, disease is the way back into life."

We often don't say how much we love one another until the storm comes -- cancer, surgery, a house burns, a tornado, an earthquake, a hurricane -- then we throw our arms around one another and hold on for dear life.

Storms will come. But we need not fear their coming, or despair in the wake of their devastation, as long as there are some among us who will stand up, filled with the spirit of God, and say, "Peace. Be still."

The Storm Voice and the Voice of God
by Anne Le Bas
Mark 4:35-41

This is a dramatic and puzzling story -- one of several in which Jesus shows the wind and waves who is boss. We have another depicted in our stained-glass window at the back -- Peter sinking into the water as he tries to walk on it, and Jesus ready to pull him to safety. These stories have stood the test of time because they still grab our imagination.

Perhaps that is because we all know what storms are like -- storms on the sea or storms on the land. We know what it feels like when a peaceful landscape or seascape is turned into a frightening and dangerous place by the wind. I imagine most of us have vivid memories of the storm of 1987 when so much havoc was wrought. We can remember the powerlessness we felt in the face of something so much stronger than ourselves. There was nothing we could do except wait it out and hope all would be well.

But those storms only come now and then, and I don't think this Gospel reading is really about the weather. I think its real power is in what it says about the other sorts of storms we face -- the storms of illness, unemployment, relationship breakdown, the death of someone we love. We have probably all known that moment when we are aware that we are out of our depth, about to be swamped, overwhelmed with demands and emotions. Sometimes we wake up in the morning and think "How on earth will I get through this day, this week, with all I have to get done?" We feel that today will bring the final straw that breaks the camel's back. We fear that we won't cope.

That's what the disciples were feeling as the storm raged around them. They hadn't sunk -- yet -- but they could see that they were going to and that there was nothing they could do about it. It's a story that taps into experiences we have all had -- or if we haven't we certainly shall some day. So what does it have to tell us?

Mark's Gospel -- though it is short -- is full of detail. It is very carefully put together, and he makes every word count. So I had a closer look at it.

I wondered what Jesus actually meant by those words "Peace, be still" which he addressed to the storm. And when I looked up the Greek, I discovered that he didn't actually say "Peace, be still" at all. The Greek is "Siopa, pefimoso." Siopa is an onomatopoeic word -- that means it sounds like it the thing it means. It means "shh -- be quiet." And pefimoso comes from the word for "muzzle" -- it means to "shut the mouth." So what Jesus actually says to the storm is "Shh -- put a sock in it." He is literally telling it to be quiet -- to stop shouting. It isn't the storm that is the main problem. It is what the storm is saying to the disciples -- the message it is giving them -- and what they are understanding through it.

So what is this storm saying to them?

What do our storms say to us?

My experience is that when things are difficult for people -- including me -- and we feel we aren't coping, we often think things like "What have I done to deserve this?" It is the voice of the storm running around in our heads, saying, "You're guilty, this is all your fault." Or perhaps we think "I should be able to cope with this." The storm is saying, "You're useless, weak, a wimp." We think "No one cares." The storm says, "You're all on your own with this one." Or we think "I'll never survive this." And the storm says, "It's the end of the line for you..." It doesn't matter how much we try to say to ourselves that these things aren't true, we tend to feel them anyway. So not only do we have to cope with whatever the original problem is, we also have to cope with this complicated mess of feelings too.

These are the sort of messages the storm is shouting to the disciples as the boat begins to go under. They should have been able to cope with this, they think. They are fishermen. They were so sure when they set out. "Put your head down, Jesus, we're the experts here. We may be stupid when it comes to theology, but sailing is our thing." But now they are feeling useless and powerless. Perhaps they feel guilty too -- they should have been more alert to the signs, even if there weren't any. Guilt is rarely logical. They are certainly sure that this is the end for them -- sure they are perishing, because they say so. But perhaps their worst fear is that they are alone in all this. They don't say to Jesus "Help us" when they wake him up. They say, "Do you not care?"

It isn't the storm that is the main problem, it is the messages that the disciples hear it roaring that are really destructive -- messages of blame, powerlessness, hopelessness, and abandonment. That is why, when the storm is stilled and all is calm, Jesus asks them "Why are you afraid?" He doesn't say, "Why were you afraid?" The fear that Jesus really wants to tackle is much deeper than a simple terror of the crash of the waves. It is their underlying insecurity that really concerns him, the sense that they have failed, that they have done something wrong, that God has left them and does not love them. It matters to Jesus to sort out this fear now. They may never face another storm like this again, but he knows that they will face the storm of his death, when all their hopes and plans seem to have come to nothing, as well as the storms of the persecutions and deaths they will face themselves.

What they will need then is the ability to hear his voice above the voice of the storm, speaking in their heart, speaking in prayer, speaking through others. The storm voice is a voice we have learned to hear from an early age -- the voice of a world which is quick to tell people that they are unlovable or wicked or failures. It is a voice which lies to us, sapping our strength and confidence. But the voice of God tells us the truth about ourselves -- that we are loved, forgiven, held in his hand, and that ultimately even death is not the end.

Anne Le Bas is a priest in the Church of England who ministers in parishes in Sevenoaks, located in the southeast county of Kent. This excerpt is from a sermon preached on June 22, 2003, on the Mark version of the calming of the sea story.

Modern Epistle

Dispatch from the Front
by Steve Philip

As we watch TV and wonder how the survivors cope, this is a personal account of one heroic effort.

Aug. 31, 2005
Thanks to all of you who have sent your notes of concern and your prayers. I am writing this note on Tuesday, August 30 at 2 p.m. I wanted to update all of you as to the situation here. I don't know how much information you are getting, but I am certain it is more than we are getting. Be advised that almost everything I am telling you is from direct observation or rumor from reasonable sources. They are allowing limited internet access, so I hope to send this dispatch today.

Personally, my family and I are fine. My family is safe in Jackson, Mississippi, and I am now a temporary resident of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New Orleans. I figured if it was my time to go, I wanted to go in a place with a good wine list. In addition, this hotel is in a very old building on Canal Street that could and did sustain little damage. Many of the other hotels sustained significant loss of windows, and we expect that many of the guests may be evacuated here.

Things were obviously bad yesterday, but they are much worse today. Overnight the water arrived. Now Canal Street (true to its origins) is indeed a canal. The first floor of all downtown buildings is underwater. I have heard that Charity Hospital and Tulane Hospital are limited in their ability to care for patients because of water. Ochsner is the only hospital that remains fully functional. However, I spoke with them today and they too are on generators and losing food and water fast.

The city now has no clean water, no sewerage system, no electricity, and no real communications. Bodies are still being recovered floating in the floods. We are worried about a cholera epidemic. Even the police are without effective communications. We have a group of armed police here with us at the hotel that is admirably trying to exert some local law enforcement. This is tough because looting is now rampant. Most of it is not malicious looting. These are poor and desperate people with no housing and no medical care and no food or water trying to take care of themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the people are armed and dangerous. We hear gunshots frequently. Most of Canal Street is occupied by armed looters who have a low threshold for discharging their weapons. We hear gunshots frequently. The looters are using makeshift boats made of pieces of styrofoam. We are still waiting for a significant National Guard presence.

The health care situation here has dramatically worsened overnight. Many people in the hotel are elderly and small children. Many other guests have unusual diseases. There are infectious disease physicians at this hotel attending an HIV convention. We have commandeered the world-famous French Quarter bar and turned it into a makeshift clinic. There is a team of about seven doctors and PAs and pharmacists. We anticipate that this will be the major medical facility in the central business district and French Quarter.

Our biggest adventure today was raiding the Walgreen's on Canal Street under police escort. The pharmacy was dark and full of water. We basically scooped the entire drug sets into garbage bags and removed them -- all under police escort. The looters had to be held back at gunpoint. After a dose of prophylactic Cipro, I hope to be fine.

In all we are faring well. We have set up a hospital in the French Quarter bar in the hotel, and will start admitting patients today. Many will be from the hotel, but many will not. We are anticipating dealing with multiple medical problems, medications, and acute injuries. Infection and perhaps even cholera are anticipated major problems. Food and water shortages are imminent.

The biggest question to all of us is where the National Guard is. We hear jet fighters and helicopters, but there is no real armed presence, hence the rampant looting. There is no Red Cross and no Salvation Army.

In a sort of cliché way, this is an edifying experience. One is rapidly focused away from the transient and material to the bare necessities of life. It has been challenging to me to learn how to be a primary care physician. We are under martial law, so return to our homes is impossible. I don't know how long it will be, and this is my greatest fear. Despite it all, this is a soul-edifying experience. The greatest pain is to think about the loss, and how long the rebuild will take, and the horror of so many dead people.

PLEASE SEND THIS DISPATCH TO ALL WHO YOU THINK MAY BE INTERESTED in a dispatch from the front. I will send more according to your interest. Hopefully their collective prayers will be answered. By the way, suture packs, sterile gloves, and stethoscopes will be needed as the Ritz-Carlton turns into a MASH.

Scrap Pile

The Tremendum of Whirlwinds
by Steven Fortney

After the church fire and the tornado in Stoughton, Wisconsin, August, 2005

Standing at the edge of the storm,
I saw the circles and vortices form
out of pregnant mammalus clouds;
and then the storm reached down
its thick brutal fingers and scoured out
a half-mile wide and township-long track;
cornfields flattened, oak trees shattered,
and house after house reduced
to kindling, a wall or two still
standing, foundations scraped off
with shocked householders on
sunlit picnic chairs sitting, after, silent,
sullen, shocked, too numb to complain.

The day before, the town's Main Street
church burned down. No one knows how
or why that fire started. All that is left
are scorched brick walls and soot-stained
glass windows, Jesus of the charred face;
and two days after that a terrifying
hurricane hits Florida and then
Louisiana. Category: cataclysmic! Scores
are dead. By a four-hundred mile wide
twister. Winds reaching tornado strength.

And then I swim under the Pacific and
encounter a vast ocean mountain range
and it is icy and ecstatic and silent;
the Atlantic storms of my childhood
were just as mountainous and frightening;
how would this little ship to Germany, this
frail metal splinter, ever last? Mountains
above and below, the ranges are enormous;
and pitiless sky above, all empty space
beyond comprehension, sublime and
terrible, with novas like tornados and
hurricanes infinite in power exploding,
to chew up whole planets, with mouths
grinning trillions of teeth, each tooth
a million atom bombs; and black
holes that suck up galaxies and gobble
light and time and space; infinite
distances more disturbing than Job's
El Shaddai shouting out of the wind, or
Cormac McCarthy's savage landscapes.

It was hard for me to worship
that household God of my Lutheran
childhood. Now give me tornadoes and
hurricanes and pulsars and supernovas
and atomic and hydrogen bombs
and blizzards and killing winters and
the Big Bang itself! That kind of terror
brings me to my knees. And the sublime
and awesome monsters of unlimited
space and the equivalent rages of my
own predatory heart... yes, yess,
o so numinous, yes, o so holy! That is
my proud testimony that may be silent
Job's shocked submission as well.
If there is a sacred, a living, a fire that
animates the monsters of that tornado
day, it is strange, fearsome, unheimlich,
that uncanniness is of our enigmatic
cobra hearts, whose chambers hold
the power that can blast open seeds ,
push plants through rock, only to have
them destroyed by weed, drought,
neglect, religious strife, war, and wind.

The services after the fire that Sunday
were held under a sunlit sky on picnic
chairs in the church parking lot:
proper worship for a congregation,
outside their ruined temple, its walls too
shattered to contain the god they
may have thought their church was for.

Batter my heart o Galaxies billion, o
endless time. Kyrie. Prodigious power.
Impenetrable fierceness. Kyrie eleison.

I lay supine in this grass, expectant, mute.
These words, o Lord without mercy,
only point to the words I can never say.

(c) Steven Fortney. Used by permission.

Steven Fortney is a published poet and author who lives with his wife Ruth in Stoughton, Wisconsin. The Passing of Shadows trilogy and The Reunion are his most recent books, published by Waubesa Press. He has been a schoolteacher (retired after 31 years at Stoughton High School), a labor negotiator for 25 years, and an alderman on the Stoughton City Council for 21 years. Fortney grew up as a son of a Lutheran pastor, attended seminary for one year, and now is a practicing Buddhist. This poem is his reflection upon the recent fire that destroyed a Stoughton church the day before a tornado swept through the community.

Response to the Poem from a Friend
by Sue D'Alessio


You lead us along familiar paths of astonished, helpless wonder and fury over the unfathomable power of the destruction you, the community, and others who are merely long-distance observers of the tragedies have experienced. Then surprisingly, with an almost magical flick of a wrist, your word images transport us to radical (deeply rooted), wild (untamable primal), awesome (terrifying reverence) perspectives. Your prayer becomes my prayer; my prayer is your prayer. Breath taken away -- no words, no thoughts left -- only unimaginable, inexpressible silence. Elijah standing at the brink of the abyss after the whirlwind, earthquake, fire, and, after all the chaos, left only with the sound of sheer silence. That is all that is left. How long did Elijah stand in the silence? How long did Job rant and rave at God's injustice? There are times when silence, words we can never say, needs to be lived with, lived into, lived through. Your poem leaves us there. Yes.

Yet implicit in the images and stories you use, formed by the witness of the past, hoping into the future, is the affirmation of the phoenix which arises out of the ashes, the song of the universe which sings almost imperceptibly in the silence, the holy which is inherent in the empty hole of the abyss of despair and hopelessness, the grace that is present in the grass and at the brink. It is out of that silence, supine in the grass or standing at the brink, with words we can never say because we don't have words expansive or intimate enough, where we encounter the tremendum and learn who we are and of what ineffable stuff we (and all) are made.

Sue D'Alessio is a United Methodist pastor who serves a congregation in Mequon, Wisconsin. She is an ardent lover of rich stories, eloquent poetry, and good friends.


StoryShare, September 11, 2005, issue.

Copyright 2005 by CSS Publishing Company, Inc., Lima, Ohio.

All rights reserved. Subscribers to the StoryShare service may print and use this material as it was intended in sermons, in worship and classroom settings, in brief devotions, in radio spots, and as newsletter fillers. No additional permission is required from the publisher for such use by subscribers only. Inquiries should be addressed to permissions@csspub.com or to Permissions, CSS Publishing Company, Inc., P.O. Box 4503, Lima, Ohio 45802-4503.
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“My parents raised me in the church.” Charlene leaned against the desk in their residence room. “So to answer your question, I guess I’ve always had faith.”

“Really?” Jody flopped on the bed in the other side of the room. “You can’t ever remember a time when you didn’t believe?”

Charlene thought for a moment. “I’ve certainly had doubts but those are the things that actually confirmed my faith. Like when Nan died in the car accident.”

Jody sat up against the wall and considered her friend. “You kept your faith because your grandmother died unexpectedly?”


John Jamison
Object: A packet of mustard seeds, or a packet of the smallest seeds you can find.

* * *

Hello, everyone! (Let them respond.) Are you ready for our story today? (Let them respond.) Excellent!

One day Jesus was talking with his friends and he wanted to tell them something really, really important. So, this is what he told them. He said:


Carlos Wilton
Among the greatest political speeches ever written is Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address. His brief Gettysburg Address is more famous, but those who take the time to read the Second Inaugural Address will come away impressed not only by Lincoln's rhetorical skills, but also with his probing philosophical mind and deep piety.

William J. Carl, III
I don't know about you but when I was growing up I always loved hearing the story of Cinderella. There was always something magical about it. It was more than Walter Mitty or Lee Iacocca -- small-town boy made good. It was more than Prince Charles and Princess Diana in all their regal splendor long before Diana's untimely death.

Ron Lavin
The kingdom of God is described in many different ways in the Bible. In Mark 4, the kingdom of God is described in terms of small seeds quietly planted by a farmer. The seeds can grow to great size, like a mustard plant which in ancient Israel became one of the largest of bushes. Small beginnings can have great endings.
Glenn W. Mcdonald
In his book Making Life Work, Chicago area pastor Bill Hybels cites a study that was published under an intriguing title: 178 Seconds to Live. The study concerned twenty pilots, all seasoned veterans in the cockpits of their small planes, but none of whom had ever taken instrument training. One by one they were placed in a flight simulator and told to do whatever they could to keep their planes level and under control. The simulator generated the conditions of a storm, including impenetrable, dark clouds.

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