This week in the GPS guide, we will be exploring the parables – the stories Jesus told to illustrate truth to his followers. Jesus knew that stories are powerful. They engage our minds and speak to our hearts.

When my youngest son Sam was little, one of his favorite activities was to climb into my lap and look around the room, choose some random object and say, “Tell me the story of this.” He wouldn’t settle for something like, “That is a bowl of flowers.” He wanted to know where the bowl came from, how old it was, why it was decorated the way it was, what kind of flowers, where they were picked, why they were picked and why they were in the bowl on this table right now. He wanted the story. So, I would tell him, “That is a bowl that used to be in my great-grandmother’s house in Ada, Oklahoma and she used to fill it every day with flowers from her garden. Ladies used to like to paint china bowls, and the decorations on it were probably painted by her or one of her friends. Or maybe her mother brought it with her in a covered wagon when their family came to Oklahoma when it was still called Indian Territory. This morning I picked those flowers, called peonies, from our garden and put them in the bowl because it makes me happy and reminds me of her.” That would lead to more questions, and pretty soon Sam knew not only the story of the bowl of flowers, but some of his own family history and something about flowers.

Story can be a powerful prayer tool, too. Have you ever felt unsettled, or unsure about some aspect of your life? Do you ever struggle with seeing or feeling God’s very real presence in day-to-day living? Try engaging the power of story to focus your prayers and recognize God’s presence in your life. I find it helpful to write things down, but, as in all prayer, come to God in the way that works best for you.

Take a minute in the quiet to center yourself and focus on your prayer. Be honest. Describe what is going on in your life, and then start asking questions to help bring out the story. When you were feeling the most unsettled, what was happening at that moment? What came before? What came after? What did you see, hear, touch? What other feelings were present? Were you alone or with other people? Tell God the story – the whole story. Fill in all the details that make it uniquely your story. Then, look back at the story you’ve told. Where do you see God moving or acting in that story? When you see God moving, what were you doing? Who else is involved? Where do your stories intersect? What feelings do you have as you look at the details of your story? What does the story tell you about your relationship with God and the impact of God’s presence on your life? Make sure you do as much listening as talking, and don’t be afraid of silence as you move through the story. Just as Jesus did with the parables, God often shows us truths through the examination of our own stories and where they intersect with God’s presence and will.

This week, let God speak to you through the study of stories Jesus told, but also spend some time exploring your own story and God’s presence in it.

Oh God who knows us best,
help us to find your presence in our own stories
so that we may walk more closely with you each day.
Amen