If you’re seeking a story friendly enough for children that’s also packed full of meaning for kids and adults alike, take a peek inside Cory & the Seventh Story. Authors Brian McLaren (of progressive Christian renown) and Gareth Higgins (writer and co-founder of the Wild Goose festival) teamed up to challenge us to consider the “seventh story” that provides a more compassionate, life-enriching path than the six stories our society has handed down to us.
Cory the raccoon and the other critters wrestle with how to navigate life in the village where the following six stories entrap: domination, revolution, isolation, purification, victimization, and accumulation. Each of those “stories” (ways of finding security in the world) is told in narrative form so that even kids can grasp the concepts. Things are looking pretty dreary due to this life-draining stories when a messiah-like figure in the form of a horse shows up. She offers a seventh story of reconciliation and of believing that we are better together than we are divided. Of course, as it goes with messiahs, some animals really don’t like this, and we start to get nervous about what will happen to her…
This is a timely book for our era (or any era, as we see how each of these stories have been around for a long time). It’s a beautiful and sensitive way to introduce kids to challenging topics they might hear about on the news or that happen globally, while giving them hope for something better. Illustrator Heather Harris creates charming and imaginative scenes that are a treat for the eyes. I highly recommend this book, whether you have kids or not. It would make a great resource for home, school, and churches / houses of worship alike.
It’s now 2019, and many people have written sweet, thoughtful posts on Facebook or other social media and blog accounts reflecting on the old year and sharing hopes for the upcoming one. I like reading the reflections, but admittedly, I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. Besides, the only times I managed to temporarily conquer my sugar problem were for a couple of Lents in years past. Apparently religiosity is sometimes more motivating to me than the time of year when you keep writing the wrong date on things…
Reluctance to resolve aside, I was inspired by (naturally) a podcast from Homebrewed Christianity, interviewing Gareth Higgins, that talked about a way to gather in community and reflect on the directions our lives are going. I love reflecting, but being in a routine about it is tough, and even tougher is being in regular relationship with people I would be this vulnerable with. I want to share about the practice with you here, in hopes that I will also find a way to birth this practice into my life.
First: gather a small group of people. At least three, up to 8 or 10, to form a community (as two is just a friendship). This will be something like an accountability group (call it something else if that feels to evangelical-y for you). Gather regularly and ask each other the following four questions:
What’s coming alive to you? What is life-giving to you right now?
What is challenging you, draining you or taking your life away?
How is your purpose for the common good showing up? (What am I here for, what is my vocation, what gift do I have and how can I use it to help heal the community? Your gift is often where your wound was. How am I leaning into this and how am I running away from it?)
Having heard what we’ve heard, how can we help each other? (whether practical or existential; economical or spiritual)
Even just writing out these questions, I feel compelled to start mulling them over. Here are where my answers are leading me this week. What about for you?
What is life-giving to me is my vacation home to Colorado for the holidays, full of abundant sunshine, friends and family, and my beloved mountains (see below!). I am continuing my never-ending Enneagram exploration (currently listening to The Road Back to You), which is fun for me. I am excited for friend and family gatherings coming up in the near/near-ish future, like my brother’s wedding!
What is/was challenging me recently was the feeling I have when I am not my whole self, either because I am not seen for who I am or because I refuse to bring my whole self to the table (for various reasons). I also realized how much I can daydream and tune people out when I am in the presence of others, which was rather startling when my family started pointing this out to me.
My purpose for the common good is showing up when I still make time for my counseling clients this week after getting back home early Friday morning, and then when 100% of them show up, which feels validating! But using my job as a therapist also feels like a cop-out, so I’m going to add that when I do things like write or make some kind of connection with others (which for me, takes intentional effort), I am also showing up for the common good. There are so many doubts and reluctances in play that keep me from writing or believing my words or my presence really matters much at all. Sometimes it takes a lot to show up.
How can you help me? By reaching out and letting me know something I said or wrote mattered. By sharing your own experiences and stories – I try and let you know when I “hear” or “see” you (online) or I try to give you my full presence when we are in person (see my struggles in #2; it is easier with friends than with family). If you feel curious and maybe a little compelled to give a group like this a shot… well, it would mean a lot if you let me know!
My beloved Colorado mountains: definitely life-giving.
Do you guys have any inspiring (or just regular) New Year’s resolutions? Do groups like this sound intriguing, boring, or terrifying to you? What is giving you life and how is your purpose showing up in your life today?