In storytelling things go in threes it seems - three blind mice: three wishes: three bears. So I shouldn’t have been surprised that I was strongly impacted by three things last week.
On Thursday and Friday I went to the two-day Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit where a yearly changing roster of innovative, exceptional business and church leaders are invited to share their story and insights at the Willow Creek Church campus in South Barrington, Illinois. The event is telecast to hundreds of host sites throughout America and the world.
I attended a satellite center in the Baltimore suburbs.
The speakers included luminaries such as:
- Jack Welch, former Chairman and CEO of General Electric:
- Blake Mycoskie, Founder of TOMS Shoes, Inc, a company famous for giving a new pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair sold:
- Jeff Manion, Senior Pastor of Ada Bible Church in Ada, Michigan which for years hovered around fifty members but has recently exploded to over 6,000 attendees.
Although the other speakers were excellent, it is Jeff Manion’s words that are still reverberating within me.
He talked about finding God in the aftermath of crisis - where life as you knew it has changed whether because of unemployment, foreclosure, illness, family tragedy, heartbreak – we can all fill in our own blanks – and the future has not yet solidified.
He calls this place “the land between” – where life is not as it once was, where the future is in question.
In a perfectly pitched presentation filled with the wisdom gained by experiencing his own extended dark night of the soul, Manion laid out the proposition that it is our response to “the land between” that will decide whether our journey through the desert will result in deep, lasting growth or prove as destructive as acid on plastic.
The pivot point is trust.
Will we choose to trust the One who has been proven trustworthy?
It could have been trite, but it wasn’t.
It was gut-touching, thought provoking stuff presented with sensitivity and humor.
I left clutching Manion’s recently published book “The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions,” hoping it would live up to his lecture.
Getting home from the two day juggernaut of rich ideas and concepts I was delighted to find a book I’d ordered had arrived.
Ripping open the packaging I immediately started inhaling “The Beggar King and the Secret of Happiness” by Storyteller Joel ben Izzy reading until dawn approached and continuing the moment I could pry open my eyes.
From the first page the reader travels close alongside Storyteller ben Izzy, going from a dark place of unwanted transition after losing his voice, through a series of meetings with his eccentric but wise old teacher, to a realization that the desert time was an unlikely gift that brings transformation as great as any seen in the ancient folklore that weaves in and out of the book.
My head was still awash with a world of beggars and kings, monks and tigers, hope lost and restored when – on Saturday evening - I went to a concert. The Scott Day Band were playing at Redeemer International Family Church, temporarily turned into a dinner (well a dessert) theater complete with draped tables and dramatic candles.
The Scott Day Band’s music is soaked in prayer and an otherness that transports listeners to a place of healing and peace, a place where fears are calmed and equilibrium restored.
Their message is - trust.
We are deeply loved.
In times of darkness God will send moments of illuminating, strengthening grace.
The only way out of the swamp is to take His hand and let Him lead us on the journey from despair, through the wilderness, to a place of praise-filled fulfillment.
It was a moving concert – in part because it provided the perfect vehicle to sift through the lessons that had been surrounding me that week.
Different mediums, same message.
Three times within three days.
It feels like I’m inhabiting a folk tale and the Great Storyteller is speaking.
And believe me, I’m listening as closely as I know how.