Thursday, September 27, 2007

Our Rabbi has taught us to tell stories

I found this delicious & nutritious book titled, "Praying the Names of Jesus" by Ann Spangler (doesn't her last name remind you of the star-spangled banner?) Anyways. For a whole week she defines one of the names of Jesus, she tells stories, guides you thru Scripture, and teaches you to believe and pray in His name accordingly. This week has been the name: Rhabbi, Rabbouni, Teacher. I was thrilled to read the first sentence for today, especially after being catapulted into the boldness of the written word at the Fusion conference.

Ann writes, "Throughout my professional life, I have found myself coaching authors on the importance of storytelling, trying to convince them that showing is often more powerful than telling. Occasionally an author objects, fearing that telling stories will somehow "dumb down" his or her writing. But human beings crave stories, just as we crave art and music. Good stories compel us in ways that simple statements of fact or truth often do not. They connect to us at every level- emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. Jesus was the last person to overlook the power of a story well told..." (page 142-143).

As a Nicaraguan, my ancestors told stories every day. Before there was any form of written storytelling, life was told from a grandma to a child, big sister to little sister, dad to son, and so forth. Sometimes it was thru song, thru chanting, thru the passing down of a family relic, thru the timing of when you plant your crops according to the moon cycles, thru a recipe on how to cook rice (I rinse my rice three times before I drop it in the hot oil, and my dad still argues with me that you're not supposed to rinse it at all (gross)- but, who spent time with grandma in the kitchen? 'nuff said). Stories are our life. Life is full of stories. Stories influence your life. Life influences your story.

So I'm going to tell you a story of faith via rice. :-) (Kim knows my story). My Tia Zela (aunt) was around 16 years old and was *asked* (dragged) by my abuela Sara (grandma) to come help cook for a pastor's conference at our church. The cultural context is this: our church ladies are very proud of racking up a good meal for the guys and serving the pastors and leaders was their gifting. Like every good Nicaraguan meal, it *has* to involve rice. So the big pot of white rice probably holding some 20 cups is ready. Someone lifts the top and a thick, round grandma with her white apron, stirs it with a long wooden spoon. She leans over the pot and digs the long spoon deep down to be sure the rice didn't stick to the bottom of the pot. As she lifts a spoonful out, rather than the rice falling down grain by grain, she gets clumps of white rice. The women know what that means. Too much water! the long white grains are hugging each other, like a team hug! This is embarrassing for them, they can't serve this rice to the pastors. So my abuela says, "sisters, let's pray". (don't laugh, she ain't joking). My aunt laughs though, and thinks quietly, "these women are crazy, we're going to pray for RICE?" So whoever stirred the pot and found the dreaded sticky rice that is unacceptable for the table, puts the top back on, as the others huddle and hold hands to pray. So they pray. Imagine some 10 brown, Nica ladies, sweating from being in the kitchen all morning, with the cutting boards and the knives resting & witnessing this prayer circle...The Amén is said. The top of the pot is lifted again. The spoon is dug in there. The rice is lifted and the grains of rice just fall down! no lumps, no stickiness. They praise & give thanks to the Lord! They hurry about, laugh at that real close call of embarrassment, and begin serving the beautiful white rice adorned with parsley and red/green bell peppers, along with some other form of meat, big hot corn tortillas, half of a yellow plantain.

When the pastors stand in line with their stomachs grumbling, they have no idea the real leadership conference happened in the kitchen! My aunt's mind, as she's helping serve the meal, is still wondering if she really saw what she saw- did that rice change after the prayer? Could it be God cares about....rice? He cares about everything! God cares about women. He cares about everything that women care about. He says if you have the faith of a mustard seed, you will tell the mountain of thick rice to move, and it shall move!


Friday, September 14, 2007

Would you sue the police department?

So, I'm cleaning house in preparation for family arriving tomorrow, when I hear two loud, "BAM! BAM!" outside in the neighborhood. I slowly walk to the window to look out but smart enough to not stick my head out. Could that be a really loud nail gun being used by the construction workers down the road? Then I hear it again, "BAM!" about 20 seconds after the first two. That doesn't sound like fireworks either- should I hit the floor? Now I'm worried, Rob has been out walking with his headphones on and it's been awhile. So I go out to see if anyone else is coming out of their house. Nothing moves, just a bird flies above me. So I go back in the house.

A few minutes later Rob comes in, sweating & agitated, "the police just shot a German Shepherd down the road! He had been menacing some construction workers and the police shot the dog with a huge shotgun!" My first instinct was, "was anyone hurt? [forget the dog!]" See, I was attacked and bit by a Doberman the size of a small cow when I was young, so I lean towards defending the humans. I couldn't believe it though! That's probably the most exciting thing that's happened in our neighborhood in the last 3yrs that involved the police- probably the most exciting thing in our small hole-in-the-state city this whole year! When Rob walked by, the construction workers were clapping and cheering that the dog was down. By the way, Rob never heard the shots (darn those ipods)- but he saw the men clapping and thought, "now why would they be doing that?" They stopped him and told him the scoop, and how one of them had to hit the dog with a bucket to defend himself.

I feel sorry for the dog, don't get me wrong, and sorry for the family when they get home and see their dog is gone (ouch). But as soon as Rob said what happened, I knew exactly what dog he was talking about. That dog is the reason I no longer go out walking/jogging in my neighborhood. He's mean, ugly, menacing, lived on the backyard without a fence, didn't like you walking by, and the chain that held him to his doghouse didn't make me feel safe (did I tell you the Doberman that bit me ALSO had a chain leash and he broke it and charged at me?). My legs would start shaking when I walked by and Rob would just laugh at me- if you've never been bit by a dog, you don't understand people! :-)

So I'm wondering now, do you think the family will sue our small town police department?

I might just take a walk this afternoon *sigh*.