A slow train coming.
I swore I would never do it, but
I recently joined Facebook. Over the last couple of years, I have
received many invitations from colleagues, friends, or family, urging
me to join. They would list several practical advantages to joining,
all of which were quite reasonable. I wasn’t tempted. I even resisted
the advice of several respectable publishing experts who touted the
benefits of Facebook to help build that all-important platform—critical
to the success of any aspiring writer. Still I resisted.
After all, I already had an
account at Shoutlife.com and at ChristianWriters.com (both of which I
love), so I felt I had paid my social-networking dues. And let’s not
forget all the other writer’s groups and social networking groups I
already belong to, and don’t even get me started about MySpace, Twitter
. . . I do not have enough hours in the day to stay plugged into the
networking sites I already belong to. No way was I going to join
So what finally persuaded me to
join Facebook? Pictures. After the house fire last year, I had lost all
of our pictures. Fortunately, our relatives had plenty of photographs
of our children, which we were able to copy. Our photo albums may not
be as robust as they once were, but thanks to Grandma and Grandpa, we
once again have all the kids’ school portraits and the like.
Unfortunately, I had no way to
replace the photos from my YWAM days. Oh, I still had one picture that
occupied a spot on my desk in my office at the church. It was a picture
of me standing alongside two other YWAMers near the Temple Mount in
Jerusalem. I always loved that picture. It reminded me of the good old
days. But looking at it now, that lone solitary picture only served to
remind me of all the pictures I’d lost. So many good times—so many
Then one day I decided to do a
Google search of my former YWAM School of Evangelism, located at
Hurlach, Germany; better known as the castle. Next, I did a search of
my old classmates. Bingo! Within minutes I found a webpage devoted to
our graduating class. After finding an old friend’s e-mail address, I
sent him a message proclaiming my joy at seeing photographs of all the
old gang after more than three decades. He wrote back urging me to join
Facebook, promising that several of the old gang was also there. I
signed up immediately. For the next several days, I got little else
done besides tracking down old friends and family on Facebook, all the
while kicking myself for not joining sooner.
But then something unexpected
happened. I started receiving friend requests from scores of men and
women who had at one time or another been in one of my youth programs.
It was wonderful! Many of these people I had continued to pray for to
this very day. Some of them remembered me from my Youth for Christ
days, and others I had served as their youth pastor, Sunday School
teacher, or Royal Ranger commander. Many of these former youth sent me
messages thanking me for the impact I had on their lives. It was such a
blessing, especially considering that most of these “kids” now had
teenagers of their own. And at least one of them has a grandkid.
Suddenly, I feel so old.
The way our memories work.
I asked many of them this one
question: “What one message or lesson do you remember from all the
things I taught you?”
But I already knew the answer
before I ever asked it. They didn’t remember any message or lesson. Not
even one. However, nearly every one of them could tell me about some
illustration or story that I had told them. More important, all of them
said that they knew that I loved them, and that my relationship with
them helped to shape the rest of their lives. I didn’t expect to hear
that. I was doubly blessed.
What books do you remember best?
If you are like me, you read a
lot of novels—perhaps hundreds each year. To some extent, I enjoy
nearly all of the books I read; nevertheless, only a few of them seem
to make a permanent place for themselves in my memory. Most novels, no
matter how well written, seem to fade away after a few months. Sadly,
one story fades into another, and the characters seem to disappear into
an ever-growing cast of unknown and yet strangely familiar faces.
Let’s admit it: No writer wants
his or her hard work to fade from the reader’s memory like a silly
dream upon awakening. We want our stories to remain firmly in the
reader’s memory as if it were an old friend. More than that, we want
our novels to make a difference in the reader’s life. Isn’t that what
life-transforming fiction is all about?
The most powerful tool I know.
In my own ministry toolbox, one
tool carries unbelievable power to change lives. It is also the tool
most common to all inspirational writers. Moreover, it can be summed up
in just one word: story. And nobody has
demonstrated the power of story better than our Lord. Throughout the
Gospels, Jesus used parables to teach the most important of eternal
Story has the muscle to open the
doors of the human heart. Story holds the key to capturing the
imagination like nothing else. Story can disarm even the strongest of
defense mechanisms. Story has the capacity to bring hope where none
existed before. And story has the ability to demonstrate truth to the
most skeptical of minds.
Over the years, I have often
marveled at the way even the hardest of kids would drop their guards as
they listened to the story illustrations I told them. It is a beautiful
thing to watch the light of understanding ignite in the eyes of a
listening youth. Even the strongest of defense barriers would drop as
they identified the often hidden secrets of their own lives with the
characters and circumstances of the story I would tell them.
So what kind of story is
remembered better than all the others? It is
the one that best hits the bull’s-eye of the reader’s heart and
imagination. And nothing can find that mark better than a well-written
demonstration of God’s amazing love. And as was proved by the memories
of my former youth on Facebook, only love and the power of story were
able to stand the test of time.
Until next month, I wish you all
the best at crafting that truly unforgettable story. And if you see me
at Facebook and discover we are not already friends, hit me up.