Want to Save Lives? Tell Better Stories.

With tensions rising in the Middle East, Preemptive Love needs our help now, more than ever. The violence across the country has made their work much more crucial. Below is a guest post by Preemptive Love founder, Jeremy Courtney (@jcourt). Please, please take a few minutes to read his words. 

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When I moved to Iraq in the middle of the war, I spent all my energy and time thinking about “doing great things” for people in need. Changing the world had mostly to do with changing others.

But it didn’t take long to learn that the most significant changes often occur in the helpers and not just in the lives of those we seek to help.

Today, there is one task whose impact on the world surprises me as much as anything: storytelling.

At Preemptive Love Coalition, we live in Iraq eradicating a backlog of children who are waiting in line for lifesaving heart surgery. And so, I am constantly asked if I am a heart surgeon. It’s funny to see the disappointment in people’s faces as I let them down gently. Their expressions say what I believed going in to this whole thing: “Man! That would have been so cool to meet a heart surgeon living in Iraq… But this guy?!”

“Oh! That’s great! Yeah, you look a little young to be a heart surgeon!”

I get it. I wish I were a heart surgeon, too! But here’s what I’ve learned: the stories we tell are not neutral. They either cost lives or save lives.

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The last 5-10 years brought a huge resurgence in talk about “telling our stories”. But I want to explore how the stories we tell around the table, read in the headlines, and share across our blogs shape the way we think about others and, therefore, choose to respond.

There is a reason why #BringBackOurGirls and Nigeria trend on Twitter and similar kidnappings in the Middle East do not. It has to do with the stories we’ve been told about the people involved.

So how do stories save or cost lives?

1) They make us care because

2) They validate what we already believe or

3) They introduce us to a new way of seeing things.

We will get into this more deeply at Allume in October. But for now, suffice it to say that we’ve all been reared on a certain set of stories that influence (even determine) what we believe about the root causes of poverty, violence, and other social ills. Our beliefs about root causes determine what we imagine the solutions to be.

We love stories because they give us heroes on whom we hang our hopes and villains on whom we can cast our sins. While we do have stories that promote “complex” characters, we often prefer the stories with white hats and black hats—not because we are simpletons, but because simple moral frameworks actually help us work out the moral dilemmas in our all-too-complex lives.

The trouble comes when we transfer the black/white storytelling model into our technicolor world. There is very little good vs. evil in the real world. Everyone is a little bit grey. Sometimes the bad guys have legitimate grievances and the good guys are driven by something other than the code of honor.

My wife and I spend our lives trying to tell better stories better. Many of the stories being passed around (or avoided altogether) about Islam, Muslims, the Middle East, poverty, and violence—not to mention Christianity, the Bible, and politics—reflect our tribal tendency to stick together and never question our leaders.

For better or worse, my wife, Jessica, and I ask questions. Is this all there is to the story? Is there something behind the behavior that we’ve never explored? Is there money, power, or politics at play here? Could I respond any differently if I was in their shoes?

We sometimes find it necessary to challenge the party line when everyone else is cheering; or we defend the underdogs when others are calling them terrorists. We poke the dragon; but we also want to know the dragon’s history.

There are real monsters in the world, but all who are vilified are not vile. In short, we don’t only seek to “tell better stories”, but to tell stories better, with more nuance, more backstory, and more space for people to draw their own conclusions.

In America, we have certain stories about Nigeria, Uganda, and Rwanda; about the “war on the family” and the “war on Christians;” about Islam, terrorism, the intractable political problems of the Middle East. In fact, our stories have often led us to believe that political engagement itself is dirty and that the best we can hope for is the conversion of individual hearts.

I’m suggesting that we should not take these assumptions or the stories that shaped them for granted. There are still more stories out there that we need to hear; that we need to tell. And we need more braveheart bloggers who will dare to challenge systems and call us to more than individual action alone.

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The longer we assume that our stories are inerrant, the longer they undermine the very change we desire. But the better we become at drinking deeply from a wide array of stories,the more we will increase our capacity to love our neighbor—and yes, even our enemies—as ourselves and actually save lives.

If you want to change the world, taking action might be the last thing you should do. Start with better stories.

So what dragons could you be poking? What monsters might warrant a second look or a listening ear? There could be more to the story! Look for the bald-headed guy at Allume—I’d love to hear about it!!

Click here to learn more about how you can be part of this very important story.

-Jeremy Courtney, PreemptiveLove.org

Christin

Christin has a heart to encourage and equip women in aspects of discipleship, marriage, mothering, writing, blogging, and community. She sees the body of Christ as an important community of encouragement and discipleship and works to foster that around the web. She has been married 13 years and has 7 children ranging in age from 11 down to 3. You can find her encouraging moms at her blog Joyful Mothering, writing some deeper thoughts on life and writing at ChristinSlade.com, and learning more about Google+.

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Adoption: A Partnering Opportunity

Slade Adoption Travel

I have been so incredibly blessed by our surrounding family, online and church community. Many of you may know that we are adopting two girls from Ghana, West Africa. We started the process two years ago. I can’t believe it has been that long already! There was one particular part of the process that kept us stuck for 13 months without movement. It was a very long and hard time.

There was much uncertainty looming on whether we would even be able to bring our girls home. Two weeks ago we finally were granted approval in order to move on to the next step, the final step before we fly out and bring them home. God has taught me a few things during our long wait. I learned the meaning of the verse Proverbs 13:12,

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

I was heart sick. Literally, my heart ached. I didn’t even know that was possible until this season of waiting and longing for our family to be together. My husband and I have struggled through the most difficult season in our marriage.

And each week we talk to the girls, their hope has waned as we have continuously put off when we will be back, because we simply did not know. Now we are just weeks away from bringing our family together but we need your help! We are in the final phase of fundraising so we can travel back and bring them home.

We need just $1,317 to complete our fundraising which will pay for the total of $7,500 for all of our plane tickets. Pure Charity has been such a wonderful partner in this. Once the funds are ready, they go directly to our travel agency. All donations made through Pure Charity are tax deductible.

When you give, you aren’t just giving money. You’re investing in the future of two precious girls who long to be with their family. You’re investing in a brand new life for them, with a hope and a future.

There are no gimmicks here. Money is simply a tool we need to use sometimes to make dreams a reality. This is one of those times. Please partner with us and help us bring them home. Click here to make a donation if you’re reading in email and cannot see the donation widget below.

Christin

Christin has a heart to encourage and equip women in aspects of discipleship, marriage, mothering, writing, blogging, and community. She sees the body of Christ as an important community of encouragement and discipleship and works to foster that around the web. She has been married 13 years and has 7 children ranging in age from 11 down to 3. You can find her encouraging moms at her blog Joyful Mothering, writing some deeper thoughts on life and writing at ChristinSlade.com, and learning more about Google+.

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Writing What’s Needed, But Not Popular

Beautiful tulip bouquet over garden bokeh background

There is a lot of content tailored to the wants of our audiences. We want to offer what people want, right? But what about what people need, too?

Sometimes, we don’t always take what we need. We don’t necessarily go looking for it because we may not want it or realize how much we need it.

When God spoke to me about writing to moms to challenge them to get in the Word daily, I resisted.

“God, no one is going to want to hear about that, let alone share it. It’s not a popular topic. Furthermore, people don’t like to be uncomfortable.”

Who likes to be uncomfortable? I don’t.

The first time God laid this on my heart, I thought I was to create a whole new website and have contributors. So I bought a domain and began a Facebook group for contributors. As the whole thing was unfolding, I got stuck. The vision got clouded and I couldn’t see what God wanted me to do next. Contributors began to back out as I was in the interim process of just waiting on Him and eventually the whole idea was shut down.

God didn’t want me to build a new website, He wanted me to build a relationship with Him and encourage others to do the same. Being a Christian doesn’t automatically make us know God or have a deep rooted relationship with Him. That really requires intentional effort.

So, a year later, this same idea tugs at my heart. It’s birthed out of a desperation in my own life and I knew I couldn’t be alone.

That’s it.

I am not alone in struggling to read the Bible everyday, and who out there really wants other people to know that? Moms are some of the most susceptible people for neglecting the word. Why? Too busy and/or too tired.

For myself, any excuse is unacceptable.

So, I started a community on my blog to encourage moms to get in the Word daily, and it’s a bit of accountability for me.

It’s called “Moms in the Word” and it’s meant not only to encourage moms to be in the word, but to challenge them in the Word. It also includes a link up that is a sad story, let me tell you. This week I broke the all time record of getting THREE people to link up. But you know what? Those three people matter.

Moms-in-the-Word-Tuesdays

We work through a study and each Tuesday I post something to challenge us all to walk out something we read throughout the week. This week, we talked about striving and pressing on in our faith.

Why is any of this relevant here on Allume? Because as Bloggers, you have influence. You are a leader. You are a teacher. All of these positions require a higher standard of living. I’m not talking perfection. But when you are in a position of influence, people are following your lead. It’s a sobering place to be.

Sometimes we need to make the decision to write about things that are not popular. Crazy as it sounds, Bible teachings aren’t as popular as some of the juicy news stories out there or as comforting as learning a new home decor technique.

But it’s something that’s needed the most. And I’m not saying that everyone is called to write on Biblical truth straight up…this is just one example. God may be calling you to write your hard story for others to read. Someone out there may desperately need to hear they are not alone and your story may be the means they hear from God.

Jesus never sought out what was popular. He always gave what was needed, and He gave in various ways. That’s where the body of Christ is unique in it’s functions. It’s also where our blogs can offer various functions. Are we willing to write what’s unpopular in order to reach the one who needs to hear from God?

What is God nudging you to write about?

 

Christin

Christin has a heart to encourage and equip women in aspects of discipleship, marriage, mothering, writing, blogging, and community. She sees the body of Christ as an important community of encouragement and discipleship and works to foster that around the web. She has been married 13 years and has 7 children ranging in age from 11 down to 3. You can find her encouraging moms at her blog Joyful Mothering, writing some deeper thoughts on life and writing at ChristinSlade.com, and learning more about Google+.

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