This Saturday morning I am teaching on storytelling the gospel for a group organized by Scripture Union in Perth, West Australia. Its part of a social media training tour that was suggested to me at Lausanne World Congress last year in Cape Town. Peter Barney, also at Lausanne, asked that I do something in Perth. So here I am. Along with Geoff Westlake who has been a friend for 2 decades. And I know that both Peter and Barney will have a lot to say.
Saturday is actually my Dad's birthday. April 16th. He would have been 78. He passed away in 2004 in Queensland, Australia. His funeral came a day after my brother's funeral so it was weird timing and quite an emotional rollercoaster ride.
My blog was a great outlet for me during that time. I got to express the deep and conflicting emotions that I felt during his funeral in the form of a poem called Just One Nod. It's a piece of creative writing that I expressed in Aussie-speak, appropriate for the Australian context, something that points to the inability of some men to find appropriate outlets for emotion without resorting to violence, more than it points to a son grieving the loss of his father.
My father's death was, for me, a passage-way into a new level of adulthood, beyond the fear of losing one's father, a sad but also a strangely liberating occasion that I marked with an ear piercing. In fact, my friend Doug also lost his dad around the same time and we both had our ears pierced together. Mark Scandrette joined us, making three volunteers for a Pictish Piercing Party in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. It wasn't the wild primal tribal piercing ceremony that we anticipated but it was meaningful nonetheless. The story I told about that still ranks number one for that search request. Not as bloody as it sounds. And actually that post is a terrible example of blogging – during the training I will show you 7 things I should have done to that blog post.
So . . . blogging the whole journey of losing my father was, for me, a therapeutic experience.
But behind the scenes, there were "secrets and lies" in our family and it wasn't until my fathers death that we, or at least I, felt some freedom to talk about it. And blogging once again became a relief valve for those secrets.
It happened accidently. When the Ted Haggard infidelity event hit the media, I posted a video that I found online, and, strangely enough, my blog hit Google search number one for "Ted Haggard video". Thousands and thousands of people were viewing my blog and I felt I should not only point them in the right direction, but also offer some of my own thoughts. Which I did.
I felt I could relate somewhat to the Haggard kids and I wanted to blog something that might be helpful to them, and to all other kids with prodigal parents who did something dumb. I posted something quite personal called Carrying Your Dad's Dumbbell. That post ends with some words from Jesus on taking our load, and a prayer that he might do just that.
When I think of storytelling the gospel on blogs, it's moments like that when I feel the good news flows and people respond. Certainly much more than a widget saying "IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE JESUS THEN PUSH THIS BUTTON!"
So, although I still have a lot to figure out, one thing I have learned about storytelling the good news of Jesus through blogs is this: The hardest, toughest moments of your life, those times when you don't feel like blogging or when it really hurts to tell your story to your audience, are often the most meaningful. It's not easy to be vulnerable enough to share how God is real in the midst of tragedy or disappointment but it is precisely those moments when our voice is strongest, and when we find God nearer to us than ever before. When we find ways to capture those opportunities and bravely share our story, and how God's story inteweaves with ours,people are attracted to the One who draws near to us in our weakness, in our pathetic humanity, and shows Himself real.
In those times, we become storytellers.We become bloggers. We become the publishers of 'glad tidings of great joy'. And the story of the greatest news in the world finds a ready audience.
How to tell that story, how to be heard, how to be found on the internet, how to supplement that story with other media, how to integrate with other social media so that we can easily stream our lives . . . these questions will be the subject of our talk in Perth. Thanks to those of you who are coming along. Please keep me connected with your story by leaving me a link to your blog, or the first stages of your baby-blog.
A few links you might be interested in: