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Never-Ending Stories

06 Aug Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on Never-Ending Stories
Never-Ending Stories

There is nothing like a great story.

It doesn’t happen often enough, but when it does; well, it is magical. Gathering around a crackling fire on a cool, clear night and then the magic, “Tell us a story!” Ahh… the pressure is on! It’s a great pressure, though – to weave a tale that excites, holds the attention, keeps ‘em guessing and then comes together at the end with surprise or relief or, at the least, a “fairly” logical resolution. Some of the finer moments in my time with family, friends and youth ministry all took place around a fire sharing a “good story.”

Nothing can capture us like that – our imagination, our attention, our emotions and maybe even shaping our vocation and our character. Lately I have been experiencing that as I have been walking around and in my daily chores living with a couple particular stories from the New Testament and church history – and I have been noticing: they don’t seem to have a bottom, you can go so deep; and they don’t seem to have an end, they just keep unraveling; and they don’t seem to stop revealing and teaching, they illumine more and more.

Then yesterday I stumbled across this quote from Parker Palmer,

“The marvelous thing about learning from a story is that the story never ends, so our learning from it need not end either.” (from The Active Life. Harper & Row. 1990. p.98)


One such “never-ending” story for me comes from Esther de Waal and it has been a metaphor that seems to have made that imperceptible journey into my life forming who I am becoming.  I first came across the story many years ago randomly reading de Waal’s book, The Celtic Way of Prayer.  The author is defining a Celtic understanding of the Latin word, peregrinatio, she does so with the following story:

In the ninth century three Irishmen set out on peregrinatio. They went from the shores of Ireland in coracles (sail boats with no keel), without oars, to drift on the sea for seven days.  They landed ashore in Cornwall, England and were brought to the court of King Alfred. When the king asked them where they had come from and where they were going, they answered that they, “stole away because we wanted for the love of God to be on pilgrimage, we cared not where.”
– Esther de Waal, The Celtic Way of Prayer (New York: Doubleday, 1997), 2.

That story of being on pilgrimage for the love of God, and caring not where has woven itself into my life. I haven’t been able to shake it, and it has become the desire of my life.  It has led me to places geographically, spiritual and emotionally that has made me more human, humane and alive.

  •  So what stories are you ruminating on?
  • Do you have any stories that are challenging or you can’t get out of your mind?
  •  What stories are you telling?
  •  Are stories and metaphors and parables informing and/or sourcing your teaching?
Doug Jones
R Douglas Jones has spent the past 25 years as a volunteer, part-time and full-time youth worker in the local church and as a retreat leader. He has earned a Master of Arts degree in Youth Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Doug lives in Western Pennsylvania with his wife, Lawren, and daughter, Amelia, along with many dogs, 2 cats, 2 horses and a pony.