Not Quite What I Was Planning

There are stories everywhere around us.  From the moment we slide into this world, we hear stories – about what happened before we were born, about our parents, about our grandparents.  fairy tales, children’s books, bible stories.

As we get older, we hear histories in school – we learn from the radio and television that people’s life stories are so fascinating they deserve their own air time.

Policy – the work of governments – is nothing more than story-telling wars, and whoever’s story is most powerful, wins.


If you listen, really listen, almost nothing human beings talk about during the day is anything other than story telling.


Sorrow and loss, wickedness and failure, humor and happy endings and hope for the future.


We embark on this endeavor because stories the way we pass down information from one generation to another.


Words and language are the threads of life, and from Homer’s epics to the stories we tell about and to one another at church potlucks, family gatherings, and funerals , stories are way to engage the imagination of a listener.


They’re the way we inspire, persuade, inform, complain, make change happen, move forward, teach, understand.  And in the end, we tell stories to understand ourselves and others a bit better.


Gossip? Storytelling.


Gospel. Storytelling.


And you and I, we follow the master story teller – no one told stories like Jesus.  Everywhere he went, he told the stories of the land in which he lived – of the wheat and the chaff of the fields, of the fishermen in the sea of Galilee, of the small town widows. Of the power-hungry religious leaders of Jerusalem and the wandering shepherds of the hills.   He told story after story – what we call “parables” – pointing toward the greater meanings of the life of the people he met, those same fishermen and shepherds, widows and religious leaders.  He used stories to tell a bigger Story.  The Good News. The story of the Kingdom of God.


So.  Stories.


Maybe you’ve heard of the book, Not Quite What I was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure?


A few years ago, an online magazine asked readers to submit their life stories in just six words.  Its actually an old idea.  The challenge was given to the famous author Ernest Hemingway decades ago to write his story using just six words.


He retreated for a few weeks, then came back with, “For sale, baby shoes, never worn.”


For sale.  Baby shoes.  Never worn.  What story did he tell with those six simple words?


Perhaps it was the difficult memory of his own child, lost to death before the age of toddling along with her father.


Perhaps it was a heartbreaking tale of the older sibling never born, whose place in the birth order Ernest took as the next in line.


Or, maybe it was the hopeful story of a life so powerfully lived that baby steps – those transitional phases of life – were unnecessary, a narrative of leapfrogging into a future with boldness and courage.


For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn.


Six words.  So many possibilities, all of them powerful.



The online magazine in question received thousands of entries, which were later compiled into the book.


Some were funny:

Divorce was like reprieve from governor.

Dentist hurt me. I bit her.

Fell off wagon. Hitched next ride.


Some made me sad:

Still don’t understand why you died.

Found true love, married someone else

After Harvard, had baby with crackhead.

I found my mother’s suicide note.


Some made me glad to be human:

Ugly duckling life became swan dream

Today I reaped what I sowed.


My favorite, a nine-year-old girl wrote:  Cursed with cancer. Blessed by friends


I started thinking of my own, trying out this six – word story:


It’s all just downhill from here.

Messed stuff up.  Got over myself.

There’s light.  But first, a tunnel.

And, in honor of Mother’s Day: Becoming my mother; better than advertised.



Whether you’ve thought of this or not, you’re writing the story of your life, writing a story WITH your life.  Stories are everywhere and the we have a choice about the story we tell.  So what if you were to write your six word memoir?  What would it be?  Or, if someone else were to write it for you, what would you like them to say?  Would it be different than what they came up with on their own?


The passage from Acts this morning – of the disciple Peter’s story of God’s Kingdom Salvation – remember! ““Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”


He was telling God’s story – a story of grace.  Of forgiveness.  Of the big picture, of the great beyond, beyond and through the wounds we’ve endured, the wounds that are living us.  That your sins may be forgiven!


Repent!  Tell your story! The gospel – the good news – it’s just that.  The telling of the news, and it’s good.  It’s grace.  It’s yours.  And you can tell it.


There’s light.  But first, a tunnel.

Found by God. Surprised and grateful.

2:39 For the promise is for you, for your children, and for all who are far away, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to him.”


There is a promise to be fulfilled, yet.  You still have time left, right?  Your story isn’t done.  At least, you have the final chapter to write.  And you’re the one composing it.  So what would you like your six word memoir to be?


God is writing a big story it this world, and you are a part of that story, but how will yoru story fit in the big story?  What do you want your life to be about?  What are you hearing God telling you’re your life is supposed to be about? For what do you want to be remembered?


If your life were a six-word memoir, what would you like it to be?


Maybe: Extravagant lover.  Grace wholesaler.  World changer.


Or how about, loved unconditionally.  Loved audaciously.  Love wins.


I hope mine will be something like:


Received without cost.  Lived in gratitude.


God wins, that that is the final chapter of the story – but how will your story fit into the big story?


One Life. Six Words. What’s Yours?

Let it be the good news.


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