We sat by the pool in sun weakened plastic chairs –
Me, with my eyes ever on the darting children. Him, in his golden years, simply enjoying the shrieks and the laughter of childhood abandonment.
We talked of family, and places lived and traveled to. I say we talked, but I mostly listened and prodded him to speak more – his years of experience had refined him into a splendid story teller, and had given him much worth speaking about.
He told me of his grandparents chicken farm and the Indians who had stolen all of their chickens.
They were devastated that their chickens were gone.
The grandfather inquired of his Indian friend and the Indian friend said that he would make it all right.
The next day they woke up to their chicken coop BURSTING with chickens – thoughtfully placed there by their Indian friend who had stolen the chickens from the surrounding neighbors.
He told me of his great (great?) grandfather who learned to read from Abraham Lincoln himself – and how they had personal letters that were, in later years, exchanged between the two.
He talked on and on, these gems shared just for me.
And I savored them.
He stopped his story telling.
“Do you know the best kind of joke?” he asked, his aged, heavy frame bent forward, a twinkle flashing through his eyes.
He didn’t wait for a response; “The best kind of jokes are the clean jokes. Yes, the clean ones. Clean jokes and good stories, those are two things I really appreciate.”
I told him the only joke I know.
It’s a good joke. A multi-millionaire told it once at a seminar I attended. I told her afterwards that I liked the joke and would be telling it to my kids when I got home. She gave me a hug and told me it is the only joke she can remember, and that I should hold onto it and remember it too. And I have. It’s come out at many random occasions, such as this poolside encounter with this gentleman.
It goes like this;
Three skunks went for a walk in the woods and came to a fork in the road.
The first skunk said; “My instincts tell me to go left.”
The second skunk said; “My instincts tell me to go right.”
The third skunk said; “My end stinks too, but it isn’t talking to me!”
(end stinks – instincts … get it?! It’s definitely a joke meant for sharing orally!)
He roared with laughter.
“Well now, that’s a good one.” And he broke into a few of his own, of which I can’t recall because I am the worst at remembering jokes.
And I was distracted by desperately trying to hold on to the details of the stories he had mesmerized me with.
Every night that Paul does bedtime duty he fabricates a story, woven through some true events of his own childhood and embellished with inventions and dangerous animals and tables full of food.
The boys eat up these stories, remembering each one in detail and later discussing together the events that unfolded in the previous nights stories.
They know they are made up stories, but they yearn for more of the adventures where their dad emerges as the hero.
There is such power in stories.
They contain such depths. Morals, truths, warnings to heed.
Stories have the power to bend your heart to love or to loathe.
It makes me laugh, but these cherished stories have even been retold by the boys to others outside our home.
When those others that hear these stories don’t love their dad as they do, or know their dad as intimately as they do, it makes me wonder for a moment what others think of these precious, elaborately schemed stories.
Gathered together with a group of like minded believers, one of the greatest joys is to hear and share in the stories of how God has been working in lives.
God’s faithfulness. His ever present care. His mercy.
There are seasons where stories of His mercy flow freely, and there are seasons where we are parched, and in need of the stories from others.
Stories that bring us back to remember the goodness of our God and the bounty of His love.
A story communicates so much.
More than just words, the stories build layer upon layer this foundation of assurance and appreciation of Him.
The stories leave us mesmerized – a broken audience with wounds which run the gauntlet of hurts brought together because of our precious Savior and His elaborate love for us. Because of His great love story that met us at the cross and continues to weave His grace deeply into our lives.
And I have seen it, when stories of the goodness of God are shared in the presence of those who don’t love God there is scoffing – a mockery of that which is precious and dear.
A story that does not yet make sense to an audience.
But the story is there for the telling – for those who know Christ our lives bear the very marks of the new life we have in Him.
And stories were meant for sharing.
Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.