Once Upon a Time

"When I was younger, I could remember anything, whether or not it had happened. But my faculties are decaying now and soon I shall be so that I cannot remember any but the things which never happened."
--Mark Twain, Autobiography

I've been in a sentimental mood these last few weeks—even more than usual. And I've been telling some of my best stories, around the dinner table and dropped into sermons. Experiences from my life and ministry that are meaningful to me and, hopefully, resonate with you.

And they are all true—mostly. The specific details may change from telling to telling—I call that "creative license"—but the basic stories and the points they make are absolutely true as I remember them.

I was telling one of my very favorite stories to a friend the other day, about an eventful trip Audrey and I made to California back in late 1990. I made it colorful, included dialogue, and brought to life several key characters as I spoke. Telling it made it live again in my memory. I've always said that I have three great experiences with every significant thing that happens to me: There's the experience itself, then the writing about it, and finally getting to read it from my journal whenever I want to.

I decided to look up that particular week in my journal from that year, to make sure I'd been telling it correctly—and I was shocked. Normally I record everything that happens in a day in careful detail. But for that week in late December 1990 there was...nothing. Just: "Trip to California for Wendell's wedding." There was no other day to day account of the many details that had lived in my memory for the last thirty years.

Well, before my faculties decayed (Twain's expression) any further, I wrote down all the particulars that I've been sharing across the years. It's too good a story to lose in the fog of forgetfulness. There--I've got it now.

We all have our stories. Especially if we have accrued some age by now. And yours are certainly as interesting as mine. If you doubt that, the difference may be that I intentionally look for them. I expect to meet people and have significant conversations with them. And I collect these experiences in my journal and then tell them over and over again—to people who want to hear them and to those who are forced to hear them in my sermons. A captive audience.

I'm dusting off some of my classic stories to include in these final sermons at FBCA. Yes, you've heard them before, perhaps many times by now. But indulge me. They are actually a little different every time. And if I'm telling them half right—they may ring true in your own life, too.



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