Movies are puzzles. Each fragment of a film’s story, from character to setting, is a puzzle piece that needs to be placed in its correct spot for the whole picture to be effectively seen by an audience. Recently I helped co-write a script for a short film that we made here at work and experienced myself the fear and rush of creating a story that is actually worth telling. Before we began to put pen to paper we decided we wanted to reveal a character flaw that is experienced in today’s generation, the craving of acceptance. In the process of creating the main character, I quickly found myself putting thoughts and ideas into his head that I actually have thought myself. I was revealing bits and pieces of my own psyche through a fictional character. I simply want to be accepted- by my family, co-workers, and friends. The scenario we threw this character into, I personally never have been through, but this underlying theme I have battled since middle school and I’m almost 23 still battling it. I could be this character.
It occurred to me that my life is a story. Each year, everyday, this very hour, this exact moment, is a puzzle piece that is playing into the bigger story of my life. It’s a simple notion, a puzzle, but it is a very true one. There are billions upon billions of totally different stories that are walking around this giant rock we call earth right this very second. Millions of puzzle pieces are being placed down this very moment. Our whole lives are mini movies. From birth to death, our screenplay was planned out and written long before we took our first breathe as the protagonist.
A reassuring concept to take from this is that it’s ok not to know the ending of this movie we call life. The ultimate Screenwriter, the Creator of story itself, in His own magnificent timing, is laying down the correct pieces in their right spots in all of our stories.
It’s a Saturday evening and my whole family is sitting around the TV watching a movie dad rented. Each of us is in our own designated seats that over the years have been assigned to us through repetition. In our hands lie plates full of those scrumptious treats that clog our arteries on the way down to our stomachs: pizza rolls, Bagel Bites, chicken wings, buttery popcorn with a double dose of butter. On this typical night, the movie playing may or may not be one any of us has even heard of. Dad has an uncanny ability to pick the most random movies out there. Trust me; I have seen my fair share of B-movies over the years.
We laugh, we throw in our own commentaries, we are held in suspense, we cover our eyes, we ask questions, we rebuke, we say what should have been said, we stretch our imaginations, we travel to foreign lands, we confront personal fears, we fall in love, we become a hero, we root for the underdog. Since I was young till now, the power of one simple set of moving pictures on one ordinary evening brings my family together. Even going away to college, I found myself on breaks and holidays coming home and enjoying the latest movie with my parents and brothers. This is why I love film. It has that power to cross generations, cross language boundaries, and provokes us to deal with issues in our culture, and personal belief systems. Film brings us together. It unites us all as an audience and allows us to take a journey through a story, through all the laughter or pain.
So before I leave the living room, as I stuff down my last handful of popcorn, I thank dad for renting the movie tonight. I know he has cherished this moment just as much as I have.
Timeline, Facebook’s new profile, allows you to go beyond the here and now and tell your story through photos, friendships and personal milestones like graduating or traveling to new places. Imagine the multiplied impact if many of the Christians within someone’s Facebook sphere updated their Timeline to include their faith journey! Facebook’s new Timeline is a great opportunity to share your life’s story along the themes that really matter to you and your friends.
Think through your themes. What is your story really about? From LifeMap, consider your:
History–these are big milestones (e.g. birth, ethnicity, family, where you grew up, went to school, etc.)
Highlights–these could be people or events in your life (e.g. giving your life to Christ, conversations, retreats, trips)
Heartaches–these shape who you are (e.g. parents split, girlfriend breaks up with you, close friend dies)
Heroes–these people are personal heroes who have touched your life (e.g. uncle, grandmother, schoolteacher, youth pastor)
Hand of God–the events in which you can now see the Hand of God was guiding you in a spiritual journey, drawing you closer to God.
Add significant events that fit your theme into your Timeline–using pictures and video whenever possible. If you don’t have pictures, consider taking a digital pic of a photo from your scrapbook, photo albums. If you don’t have video of a significant event, consider narrating a simple web-cam video.
Paint the events in full color. We tend to minimize our failures. As Christians, we want to do the opposite–to lift up our weaknesses and failures. By including our imperfections and poor choices, we put the gospel on display. Your honesty adds power to your story and shows off the Good News.
Be genuine. Let the events of your story tell your story. You don’t need to pose as someone you’re not. Your story is powerful as is.
Include more than just the Christian stuff. Be sure to add your first crush, your first roller coaster, your fam’s last road trip together. Let the reader see the themes come out in the context of your whole life. Otherwise, it will not feel genuine, but rather like you have an agenda.
Read and comment on your friends’ Timelines. What’s their story? Surprisingly, this may be the most important step! Note the themes in their stories. There’s nothing more honoring than spending time on their story. And sometimes, you’ll be able to show them where God has already been at work in their lives.
A couple of us are currently in Bangkok at a conference called MinistryNet.The conference is about leveraging the Internet to help more people connect at deeper levels.
From a workshop called "Telling Your Story Online," we thought you'd appreciate a few of the tips:
Before you tell your story, ask a friend about their story first. Then ask a smart follow up question. Only after that is it best for you tell some of your story. And even then, the part of your story that you share should center around the theme of their story.
As you listen to their story, you may be able to see God's hand at work in their life (usually before they do themselves). It's always so encouraging to help someone stop and see how God has been working in a situation and in their life and heart.
As you share how God has also been at work in your life (usually along a similar theme), you'll seemingly make the good news come alive because you both can see how relevant it is for this very part of the journey you're on.
Ever seen this sign? It's usually hung near the backdoor in someone's home. In our home growing up, our back door was right off the kitchen. So, it wasn't uncommon for my neighborhood friends to just show up at the backdoor and be invited in to join us at the table for dinner or dessert.Backdoor friends are always welcome.
Like a welcomed visitor, stories have a way of doing this. They communicate an idea in an informal way that lets the listener relax and take in the message. Well-told short films (visual stories, really) allow us to become "backdoor friends" with whomever we're talking. We are not a front door salesman convincing them to buy something based on selling points.
We've dropped the "pitch" and are simply connecting both mind and heart on a theme that resonates deep within all of us. By listening to their story, and telling of our own journey along this theme, we get invited into a more intimate conversation around the "kitchen table" of their lives. Then comes the best part where we tell how the "good news of the Kingdom of God" is restoring us along that shared theme.