Since taking the story-telling class, I've wanted to start something new with my blog. If you haven't read A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, you should. It's like a shot of purpose-driven life masked in funny narrative. Aside from just being thankful that God gave the world Donald Miller, reading Million Miles taught me about the importance of story. We need stories. They inspire us to live. But one of the greatest lessons I learned from "Don" was this-
"A good storyteller doesn't just tell a story. He invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story, too."
So that's what I'm going to do for a bit. I know some people with some stories. And some of those stories need more people to step into them. So I'm going to start telling, or rather, re-telling some stories that I know. And if you're reading, you're invited to jump in. I hope you'll be inspired to pray for some of these folks, or support them in other ways. Maybe you'll be inspired to take some action where you are because of something you read about here.
This is a new project for me. I don't know how many stories I know, so I don't know how long this will last, but I'm gonna give it a go. Like Donald said, the good stories go to the ones who have the courage to face their greatest fears. In my story, getting rejected is a huge fear- having you read this and think I'm wasting my time. But, a greater fear than that is the fear that I actually am wasting time. And, from where I'm sitting in Austin, Texas- wasting time is more likely to happen if I don't write anything at all.
So the first story is pretty simple. It's a follow-up to the Easter post from last Sunday.
First of all, The Austin Stone doesn't publish any info on the number of people that go to our church on a regular Sunday basis. I like that about the Stone. It doesn't really matter to them how many people are coming, I don't think. They're just glad that God is bringing people into the church. We know that there are enough people to merit eight services (4 at each campus) every Sunday, and I have heard the number 7000 floating around lately. But when it comes to a day like Easter Sunday, numbers matter. Last Easter, the Austin High Campus was so packed out that there was standing room only and parking was a challenge, but the church did its best to accommodate regular attendees and guests.
This year, there was a different plan- bring the entire church together for one service. But where can you host 7000+ people at one time? The Frank Erwin Center- where the University of Texas plays basketball and where other large-scale events are held on a regular basis. The very thought of having Easter together with the rest of this gigantic church that I love so much made my heart leap, but I initially thought that I wasn't going to be in the actual service. In order to pull off the service, the church needed a lot of people to step up and volunteer to serve in Kidstuff, and as greeters and parking attendants. Because my sweet husband is already a regular Kidstuff volunteer, I signed up to help with the Kid-o's on Easter morning. But the day I was supposed to attend training, Gatsby had a seizure and I spent the time I was supposed to be learning about kiddie care, at the vet's making sure Gats got good doggy care (Gats is okay, by the way- totally normal bloodwork and thyroid panel, for those who are interested in such things) Anyway, that meant that I couldn't serve in Kidstuff, so I got to attend the service.
It was amazing watching the streams of people pour into the Erwin Center Easter Sunday. It made me think about all the things I've learned in Isaiah this year about the nations pouring into Jerusalem's open gates in the future kingdom. But, I was excited to learn who it was that had opened the gates- or rather, doors- of the Erwin Center for our church. It was Rick Barnes, the head men's basketball coach at UT. He even prayed to open up our service. I'll be honest, I was impressed that he worked to get us into that building, but the most impressive thing to me was that as soon as he said, "Heavenly Father" that man told a house full of something like 10,000 people "I am a sinner." You can watch the prayer and a little bit of the service here. The sound is sort of bad and the picture sort of crazy but this is the best I could find on the Tube of You.
Another special guest for the service (also in the YouTube video) was the Mwangaza Children's Choir who are visiting the US from Uganda as a part of Africa Renewal Ministries. The children sang along with all of Austin Stone's amazing musical talents, but they did something we've never seen out of Aaron Ivey and Jimmy McNeal- they danced! One boy in particular did a dance that reminded me so much of David's jig for the Ark coming into Jerusalem. I cried and laughed out loud the whole time the kids were on the stage. Learn more about Mwangaza, hear their music and see if they're visiting and area near you by visiting this site:
Matt Carter delivered an incredible message about restoration that also made me cry and, again quoting Isaiah, "tremble at God's Word." The sermon is called Breakfast on the Beach with Jesus and you can check it out here:
After service, Andy and I hosted an Easter Feast at our apartment. This was, perhaps, the real reason God let Gatsby have a seizure- because if I had served in Kidstuff, I never would have been able to get everything ready for a meal for 12 people! Here are just a few pics of the after-math. My camera battery was not charged so I didn't get any pics of people shoveling deviled eggs and ham into their mouths.
Rachel & Evan
Jonathan & Lisa
My Easter Bunny :)
So I guess that story kind of rambled in different directions- this will be a work in progress. But Easter around here was about celebrating Jesus- with the nations, with friends, with Rick Barnes and with 10,000 people in a giant building in the heart of Austin. And I thought that was a story that needed to be told.