Where is Waldo? – Melvin Bray

Amid all the other things you’re trying to keep in mind as you prepare for the Goose, I want you to remember this face (Right here to the left – how could you forget a mug like that?)  I shouldn’t be too hard to spot, because for one thing I look nothing like this guy:

For another thing, I’ll be wearing a very ubber-stylish neon lanyard around my neck identifying me as one of the people to crucify (upside-down, of course) if you’re not having a great time (no messiah-complex here, no over-wrought sense of self-importance).

I want you to remember me so that when you see me you are prepared to tell me your story.  But not just any story.  (Certainly not your life story–unless it’s really interesting and your willing to sign over rights to it.)  I’m looking for that one deeply meaningful bible story originally told to you in a way that has absolutely nothing to do with the virtue you find in it today.  In fact, I’m looking for that story whose traditional telling makes you want to “pray to theporcelain god” (puke) because it so misses the point.

A while ago I undertook a story project, Stories in Which We Find Ourselves, to collect re-imaginings of the biblical narrative.  The way I figure it: We either find more sustainable ways to tell our stories of faith to our children or they will end up re-traversing the same valley of shadows we’ve come through to retain faith. Slowly and humbly I’ve been moving through scripture trying to taste, touch and smell its stories anew.  It helps that my faith community, Neighbors Abbey, allows me to experiment on its children from week to week (nearly half of them belong to me anyhow–still I’m grateful).  Along the way I’m inviting others to share with me their own renaissance with the scriptures, in the form of actual bible stories (targum) ormidrash.  That’s where you come in!

With one of the hopes of the Wild Goose Festival being to inspire a new imagination for being Jesus followers in the world, I can’t imagine a better group of people to swop stories with.  So what I’m saying is, when you see me coming, don’t run and hide.  Walk up and say, “You remember the story about ‘so-and-so’…”–then give me time to set up my microphone so I can record you.

For those of you who think that sounds neat, but have no clue how you would actually do it…  Once upon a time Russell Rathbun and I collaborated on a workshop called “Stories that Compost” in which we led friends through this process that may prove helpful for unlocking the latent storyteller in you:

1.  Read a narrative passage of scripture.
2.  Interrogate the passage in these ways:

-List 3 things you love about the passage.
-List 3 things that have bugged you about the way the story is typically recounted?
-Articulate 3 questions that come to mind when you think of the story you read.

3.  Select one thing from each of the 3 preceding categories.
4.  Re-tell the story emphasizing/avoiding those things.
5.  Remember, though scripture is life-giving, insightful, important, etc, it’s not precious (think Gollum): you can’t break it.  (Buy me a beer, and I’ll unpack that one for you.)

One good thing about doing this in advance is that it gives you something really cool to share during open mic at the story tent!  (You never know, there may be a new career in it for you.)  If you want examples of stories others have contributed to the project, check them out here.

So even if you can’t find Waldo at the festival, find me.  I want to meet you; I want to hear your story.  See ya next week.  Long live the Goose!

Melvin Bray is a Wild Goose Festival board member, devoted husband, committed father, learner, teacher, writer, storyteller, lover of people, connoisseur of creativity, seeker of justice, and believer in possibilities. As founder of Kid Cultivators, he lives, loves, and dreams with friends in Atlanta, Georgia. If you want to find Melvin, it’s not too late to get your tickets here.

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