Archives For Story

I tried to peel myself off the alley as the Spanish words got louder, men’s voices, but my Columbia pants stuck to the dirt. My bones ached and bowels churned. Montezuma was mounting his revenge and it was one of the worst hours of my life.  


It was also one of the best days of my life, but you have to widen the edges of the story to see it. Zooming out, you’d see the alley I lay plastered in, tucked high up on a jungle mountain. You might see that–by a miracle of nature–later that day I’d steady my limbs and force them up ancient steps until I could look back over the green and grey city of Machu Picchu.  


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Photo by on Unsplash


One day, but two different stories depending on how wide you set the frame. In a similar way, Christians can cut the edges off God’s story. Sometimes we zoom in so tight on the cross, sanctification, and getting to Heaven when we die, that we crop the storyline. The Great Commission looms so large in our minds, that we almost forget about the first commission, the one God gave us in the Garden of Eden.  

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I dug into my brownie Sunday as I asked him to catch me up on the last fourteen years. Jeremiah and I had lost touch after college and only recently reconnected via Facebook. Despite more than a decade of silence, we fell back easily into friendship. We’d both lived overseas, survived faith crises, never married, and felt our lives to be on the verge of something new. Neither of us expected our stories to turn out this way. Our other college friends got married, had kids, and lived in the cities they’d planned on with the jobs they’d hoped for. But not us. God doesn’t have us on the group plan. 

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I know Jeremiah and I aren’t the only ones who can feel like we’ve missed open registration for God’s group plan. Most of us tend to compare our personal slice of adversity to everyone else’s plenty. If the doctor diagnoses us with a chronic disease, every one on Facebook just glows with health. While we scrimp on groceries to pay the rent, everyone around us drops twenties at Olive Garden like it’s no big deal. When another month passes and our hopes for children get dashed all over again, another five couples at church announce their pregnancies Continue Reading…

“Stop, Emma!” My brother’s voice exploded as he slammed the table with his fist and catapulted to his feet. His two-year-old daughter’s decent from the chair halted, fear streaking her face and her bare feet dangling above the floor. Tears welled in her eyes. Was this the daddy who kissed her before bed and stroked her blonde hair on the pillow? 


Sometimes when disaster or disappointment erupts in our lives, we can feel like Emma. Hearing tires squeal and feeling the impact. Getting called to the boss’s office after a mistake. Mom’s shaky voice telling us that Dad is in the ambulance on his way to the hospital.


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In these moments, anxiety paralyzes us. God feels absent, and we question his love. 


When circumstances sting, it is possible that, like Emma, we don’t see everything that is at stake.

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I received news this week that my friend Eugene Oh died. He was in his thirties, a husband and father of a toddler, and died suddenly from a hemorrhage in his brain. 


I first met Eugene while visiting my brother in Korea. While hiking and scrambling up what we called the “Razorback Mountains,” I learned that Eugene could make anyone laugh.


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Several years later he visited us in Rochester during the dead of winter. We trekked over to Black Creek Park where he and Jason made a snow jump for our GT-cruiser (a contraband Canadian sled that isn’t sold in the US). We took turns laying down under the jump, first one and then two of us Continue Reading…

Beauty at the Curb

smgianotti  —  March 5, 2015

Jewel scraped her boot through the leaves congregating in the gutter. Her glossy, black heel revealed a cigarette butt and the corner of a Snickers wrapper matted to the cement by summer dirt and fall rain. From the look of it, the trash had claimed this corner long before she had.

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At the sound of tires, Jewel’s spine straightened and her hips cocked, but the black sedan sped up. She threw a provocative smile anyways, only to have the tinted windows fling it back.

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A giant, purple muumuu cascaded over her large, mocha body as she sat in my exam room. I still suspect that catching cold delighted Mrs. Rodriguez*, since it gave her a reason to see everyone at the office. 


A retired kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Rodriguez carried around bucketfuls of pent-up love. Each time I saw her, I got a little dousing–a blue tote that reminded her of her beloved bluebonnets that I must see one day, a heart-shaped necklace at Valentine’s, or gas station burritos. 


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“Best burritos in Rochester,” she said. “You’ve got to know where the real Mexicans cook.”  


That day, she proffered this gem: “Enjoy singleness, Shannon. Once you get married, you can’t just walk around the house tooting.” 

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I rinsed bits of wild rice and cranberry off my plate and grabbed my laptop from the table. While the next episode of Gilmore Girls loaded, I nestled into the couch and prepared myself for a Netflix binge.* 


The following morning, as I sipped on a cup of french roast, I contemplated my media marathon and the power of stories to pull us in. For centuries, story-telling has kept humans up after dark—around fires, in igloos, and via MacBooks on the couch. 


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Stories sneak past our mental gestapo and grab us at a level where facts don’t reach. They penetrate down to where emotions shape what we want out of life. 


Which makes me wonder…why do we tend to talk about Christianity like a set of beliefs, rather than a story that we’ve been swept up into? 

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A Long Time Coming

smgianotti  —  December 18, 2014

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“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son…” Luke 1:13 

The smell of yeast met Zechariah at the door. Elizabeth’s back was still turned, her wrinkled hands kneading and stretching the dough. As she stopped to push a strand of gray hair behind her ear, Zechariah’s heart skipped a beat.

God had heard all those years of prayer—the nights when Zechariah had begged God for a child and Elizabeth had wept herself to sleep, the nights they had prayed together while he had stroked her dark hair. When the townspeople began to say that God was punishing them, Zechariah and Elizabeth had kept praying. They prayed for years. Then, when her flow stopped, so did their prayers.

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After going to the movies last night to see Exodus: Gods and Kings (and recalling the strain that Noah put on church-theater relations earlier this year), I decided to create a quick guide to help movie-goers decide whether they should risk $11.50 on Hollywood’s latest foray into the Pentateuch. Here it is:

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