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Listening . . .

Before attending a gathering of STS leaders at the headquarters in California I needed to select and prepare a Bible story from a list of 296 stories. I felt a longing in my spirit to learn a new story; one I had never worked on before.

While looking over that list, my eyes came upon the story of 1 Kings 19:4-16 titled, Fear After Success. Although I did not know why, I felt a strong confirmation in my spirit to do that story. The story involves God ministering to the prophet Elijah following his amazing triumph over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. But then, after receiving a death threat, Elijah is filled with fear and runs for his life. In fact, Elijah is so discouraged that he asks God to take his life, saying, “It is enough!”

It was a joy to learn and practice the story. I tried to make it my own. While meditating on the story, it ministered to my spirit and God sent many treasures to my soul. It was clear that God had led me to that story for a reason. Was it just for me? Perhaps it was for a discouraged colleague coming to the gathering. I did not know.

I told the story at the conference and we all enjoyed discussing it. But I did not sense any specific impact. Then, a few weeks after the conference, something happened . . .

I received an email from the wife of dear friend (let’s call her Linda.) Linda asked if I had time to give some counsel and comfort to her husband, who we will call Jerry. He is the youngest of three siblings and the only believer in his family. When Jerry lost his father six years earlier, the last words his father said to him were, “Take care of your mother.”

Linda explained that Jerry’s ninety year-old mother, who we will call Doris, had decided to end her life. Doris was in a nursing home after falling and breaking her leg. She did not have a terminal illness, was getting better and receiving excellent care. Doris claims to be a believer, but had made the decision to refuse any nourishment or water except what small amount she might need for any pain medications.

That day Jerry and I met over lunch. He shared how he and Linda and some of the kids had gone to visit his mom the previous weekend. When Jerry asked his mom why she was doing this, he learned that Doris had attended a class called Death and Dying taught by her pastor. Doris had decided that she did not want to be a “burden to her family.” She no longer felt she had “quality of life” and she wanted to exercise her “right to die with dignity.” Jerry’s two sisters approved of Doris’ “brave decision.”

As we talked, Jerry’s greatest burden was his belief that he had failed his father’s dying request for him to take care of his mother. I asked, “May I share a story with you?” He nodded a “yes”, so I told (yes, you guessed it) the Elijah story. (In the story, God had sent an angel to minister to Elijah with “cake already baked on hot coals and a jar of water.” In fact, the angel came twice to Elijah.)

As we discussed the story and Elijah’s desire to die, I asked Jerry if he felt he could identify with any of the characters of the story. After some thought Jerry said, “the angel.” Part of our conversation went something like this . . .

Me: “Did the angel force Elijah to eat the bread and drink the water?”

Jerry: “No.”

Me: “Who sent the angel to minister to Elijah?”

Jerry: “God did.”

Me: “Did Elijah make any decisions here or could he have made another choice?”

Jerry: “Yes, he ate the bread and drank the water.”

Me: “Do you think the angel was responsible for Elijah’s decision?”

Jerry: “No.”

Me: “So what do you think God might be saying to you from this story?”

Jerry: “I am not responsible for my Mom’s decisions.”

The next day I received the following email from Jerry’s wife Linda.

Hi MY Friend-

Just want to extend a heartfelt thank you for what you did to encourage and strengthen Jerry yesterday.  It was clear to me that the Lord had gone before you, considering the fact that you were available, the Scripture you had been meditating in previously, and its relevance to the difficult situation at present with Jerry’s mom.  

When he came home after work, he told me he had had lunch with you, and that being with you and what you shared with him were deeply helpful.

One of the things that has clearly been weighing on him [and brought him to tears] is his dad's final admonition to him to "take care of your mother" . . . and how stymied he has felt by her insistence on her "choice."  You helped him see this through the lens of Scripture and that has lifted the burden that he cannot change.  It also helped me when you mentioned on the phone what Doris is doing is really defiance against God . . . and the fact that Doris told Jerry God didn't give her a “yes” when she prayedand yet is persisting in this course anywaygives me great pause.  Is there anything harder than a human heart?

According to my sister-in-law, the night after we had visited was an especially rough one for Doris, with sleeplessness, and many tears . . . I don't know if the Lord offers comfort when we refuse to repent of a decision such as she has made . . . but I  do know that is what she needs, and to that end I'm praying now.  Jerry said you told him "God will do what He will do" . . . that was so helpful for me.

Thank you so much for ministering to my dear husband . . .

Linda

If I had not been obedient when prompted in my spirit to learn this particular new story, I would not have been as prepared as I was to minister to my friend. I want listening to God and responding to Him to be my life.


 

Once a Week is Not Enough!

”Once a week is not enough!”
“This is the best presentation of the Gospel I have ever heard.”
“I wish our church meetings were presented this way.”
Those are only a few of the encouraging reactions spoken to me after ministering the Word of God with the Simply The Story presentations.

My position is working as a volunteer chaplain in a faith based drug and alcohol recovery centre in Perth, Western Australia. We have a holistic (spirit, soul and body) approach to helping our clients break free from addictions of many kinds.

When first working at the Recovery Centre, I met with the head chaplain. He and his team had been praying for nearly three years about starting some Christ-centred meetings for the clients who were looking for and needing transformation. The team saw the challenge as, “How can we provide the Word of God to people in a way that is not literacy based?”

When I told the chaplain about the skills I had learnt using Simply The Story (STS), he had a great deal of difficulty maintaining his composure! He knew immediately that God had brought him the answer as to how to minister the Scriptures to their clients.

We have begun Christ-centred meetings for those who want a real life change. These meetings focus on developing life-skills with God’s Word as our foundation.

Many of our clients prefer not to read or have short attention spans due to their addictions. The STS approach to presenting the Scriptures has really made a huge impact in our clients. This has been demonstrated by the numbers of folk who return the following week to get their “fix” from God through His Word, and by the comments we have received from them and our volunteer helpers.

It is yet in its early days; we have been doing this for nine weeks so far. But we are praying as to how the Lord would have us utilise this STS tool further. As well, I have begun to train anyone who comes to these meetings in this way of Bible study. We thank God for His mighty Word which is able to “…discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

If you would like to check out the website of the recovery centre, this is it: http://www.freshstart.org.au/

T. Dower Australia


What A Concept!

I know the value of feedback and thought you might want to hear some, especially from a guy who struggled through the whole week of the workshop you just led.

My position as pastor at my church often leads to opportunities to counsel people.  This morning, when I least needed it, a young girl, whom I’ve met with on many prior occasions, stopped by.  She was complaining about a situation that keeps surfacing between her and her Mom.  We have had this conversation in similar form before.  So, what did I have to lose?  Obviously, prior counseling didn’t quite help with a solution to the problem.

I decided to try the STS method.  I told her the story about Jesus walking on water.

She, through the process, discovered that sometimes when we decide to be obedient we find ourselves in a rocky boat, maybe even doubting the choice to be obedient.  She also discovered, and this was the good part, that if the disciples had not been obedient, they would have missed out on a miracle by Jesus – not an observation from any of us in our “tribe” during the workshop.

We talked about what that meant for her for a few minutes.  She stood up and said she had to go, that she now knew what she had to do and she was going to go do it.  I don’t know what “it” was and I was too amazed to go any further.  I didn’t do any counseling, the Bible did.  What a concept!

It felt like the divinely appointed meeting between the king, Gehazi, and the woman whose son Elisha had restored to life (one of the other stories we learned in my tribe study group.)   

Needless to say, that meeting this morning has given me new focus and desire to commit to STS. [In further correspondence after sending that report, this pastor told us that together he and his wife were aiming at learning and studying a story a week.]

JC Workshop attendee in Joplin, MO



Jesus With Skin

Ministry is being able to, at any moment, to be ‘Jesus’ with skin. 

”I cannot get away from my calling as a counsellor. In this avenue, even if opportunities arise to share glimpses in the story, I feel more confidence.

”On a personal level I have become a HEARER of the Word which changes me & my investment in Jesus. I become an active participant in the story.

[An attendee mailed these words describing her experience to us six weeks after attending an STS workshop. MI, USA]


 


“Easy to Remember and Apply to Ones Life.”

When I encountered people with a counseling issue in the past, my mind would often go to individual verses that applied to the counselee's specific need. If a Bible was available, I would direct my client to that verse(s) and give an admonition based on that verse(s). This basic approach often had a positive impact, but I always was left wondering if my client had truly absorbed the admonition in the long term.

The difference with the STS method was that I finally had a "Rolodex" of short biblical stories in my heart pocket that could be applied as needed to discipleship, counseling and various pastoral situations that I faced.

Now when an unexpected counseling opportunity comes up, I have been trained to apply a suitable Bible story to the situation at hand. The training has helped me know how to give a five, fifteen or thirty minute (or longer) story depending on how much time is available. It also means that I am not dependent on notes, workbooks or even the availability of a Bible.

After using STS in a morning service of a large Bible church, I was confronted by a grieving couple who had been trying to have a baby, but with no success.  Instead of my usual approach, I decided to tell them the story of Hannah and her struggle to have a child. This couple was moved by this story and thanked me.

I am not sure if they were ever able to have a child, but I felt good that what they took away from our encounter was a story that spoke directly to their felt need. My confidence is that the story I shared was meditated on further as this couple discussed the story of Hannah in her time of need.

On another occasion a young woman shared the sad news that she had a degenerative eye disease that could eventually result in blindness. In this case I shared the story of blind Bartimaeus and stressed Jesus' words to the beggar, "What can I do for you?" I encouraged this young woman to respond to this question in a personal way and tell Jesus about her fears and concerns about her future.  

In the past I would have sought to ‘size up’ the client and then apply various techniques to get at the root issues. Some of these approaches were effective, but they were dependent on quite a lot of personal study and experience. In the case of this young woman, however, my goal was to help her absorb the Bible story, identify with the characters, then allow the Holy Spirit to teach and comfort her directly from the narrative account.

Professional counselors have for years recognized the value of story as a counseling method. Telling your personal story is therapeutic and allows the counselor to gain a window into underlying issues.  A biblical story is that much more therapeutic to the counselee, since it has the added advantage of not only being in a story form, but is easy to remember and apply to ones life.

Dr. Larry Dinkins, USA



Give Us Your Story

Many people have told us in person and on the phone how they are using Simply The Story in counseling. This is not surprising as STS and counseling are a natural fit. Asking questions and letting people discover answers for themselves has always been a central part of good counseling.

In biblical counseling, not only do we want people to discover for themselves, we also know that the answers to every question central to our needs are found in the Bible. STS is perfectly designed for counseling as its emphasis of listening and responding and of letting the Bible speak, instead of lecturing, is its core.

So, those of you who have been using STS in counseling, please send us your written reports! Your stories and the innovative ways you have incorporated STS in your work will bless and encourage those who read your accounts.

Email Us
More counseling reports are scattered throughout this site on the home page Pick your Spot and more. The “search” feature, (upper right corner) can guide you to added reports.



At That Very Moment The Story Came

During the past week God gave me several opportunities to use the Bible Storytelling I learned to pass on God's truth with a friend over a period of five days!

As this friend was sharing and came up with questions, I felt compelled to lead her into looking at things from God's perspectives, Biblically, instead of me telling her what to think and do. There were times we were in a car, other times during lunch times.

When she talked about her understanding about love, I learned that her concept was about making people happy but that she didn't have the right priority. At that very moment the story of Jesus and Lazarus came to mind and I started going through the story and questions afterwards.

In the next few days when we met, we revisited the story a few times. She unfolded a bigger story, one that is very messy involving making the wrong decisions and blinding herself to the truth in the name of love. Starting from the Lazarus story where we talked about what love is and how it looks like and being right before God and other things, other related Bible stories came up.

The beauty of this whole story is that although I needed to confront this friend, the truth from the Bible spoke for itself. This friend tried to avoid it and I left her to process what we talked about, but one evening she felt really convicted. She couldn't escape the glaring truth and she said that deep down in her heart she knew she was doing what was wrong.

There were things she didn't understand about love but then she understood better from the Lazarus story, and the rest of the truths of the Bible wouldn't let her go in peace with many decisions and actions that she held on to.

One evening as we went out for a walk and talked some more, I told her the story of Achan and then of Lot's wife and then we went through some questions. The story of Achan clearly illustrates why God told the Israelites to get rid of any remainders of Ai. And the story of Lot's wife further illustrates what it means to leave the past.

My friend was able to relate the stories to her struggle. Praise the Lord that in the end she chose to commit to do what God wants her to do.

New Zealand