Communicating with stories – 1½ minute read

K&D

Kit telling a story

Effective stories like Jesus’ Good Samaritan or Paul’s testimony in Acts 26 have an introduction, crisis, and resolution making a point. The crisis creates suspense and may evoke emotions. A resolution should bring closure to recipients.

We observed one couple tell about a horrific traffic accident and then continue their presentation. But the group mentally stayed right there at the accident scene wondering, “What happened next?” Frequently we hear stories meaningful to the teller or one they enjoy repeating, but without a point. Only stories illustrating spiritual principles communicate to change lives.

Everybody has suffered through long and boring stories. Rarely should a spoken story be longer than 500 words—about three minutes—or you risk losing the listeners’ attention. Jesus’ “Good Samaritan” story is only 179 words. His longest parable, “The Prodigal Son,” contains two stories totaling 487 words. Paul used just 460 words speaking to King Agrippa.

The most effective verbal stories are prepared in advance. To communicate concisely and clearly, eliminate details not needed or relevant to the point. President Woodrow Wilson, known for succinct and effective communication, was asked how long he spent preparing to speak. “It depends. If I am to speak ten minutes, I need a week for preparation; if fifteen minutes, three days; if half an hour, two days; if an hour, I am ready now.”

Listeners, especially young adults, respond best to verbal stories if you act out the story with exaggerated voices, expressions, and gestures. You may feel foolish. But our purpose is communicating, not feeling good about ourselves.

But the most important audience for our stories is ourselves. God is continually seeking to teach us through our experiences, just as He did to hundreds of men and women documented in the Scriptures. What can we learn by reviewing our own lives? What can our personal stories of faith and folly communicate about God to others?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Prayer Triggers – 1 minute read

K1 (3)

Drew at about the time he started using prayer triggers.

At Georgia Tech, Christian activities took a lot of my time. One activity I didn’t relish was 5:00 a.m. prayer with other male students on Wednesday mornings. I’ve always been a night person. But lest I appear unspiritual, I showed up every week.

A local church let us pray in their library. Most of the guys sat on chairs or couches. But a few of us stretched out face-down on the plush carpeting. Prostrate before God, we imagined. One morning I woke up from a sound sleep after all the others had gone on to class.

Those prayer times made me aware of different styles of prayer. Some of the guys gave long spiritual sounding prayers using a lot of King James English. At the time, I thought they were posturing. (I’ve already admitted that I attended for appearance sake myself.) I then adopted a simple language and halting style for public prayer that I continue to use.

About that time I also started to use what I call prayer triggers–an occurrence that brings a person or a need to mind. For example, loading paper into a printer reminds me of a friend who first showed me how. I frequently pray for him at that time. Whenever national weather forecasts predict severe weather in a certain area, I usually remember and pray for those I know living there. I know some young Air Force officers, deployed to bases in conflict areas. Jets passing over our house remind me to pray for them.
1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I fall short in that admonition. Prayer triggers help.

Drew Coons

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Fishing Invitation – 1 minute read

Teenaged Drew lived for catching fish. Who caught the fish mattered little. Seeing someone else catch a fish almost equaled catching one myself. Bored from a Boy Scout exhibition downtown, I wandered down to the Tennessee River. There I found a man watching his eightCapture (2) year old daughter who hopefully held a rod with a line into the water.

By their appearance, that family had experienced some hard times. “I’d give anything I got to see her tie into a big one,” the man confided.

Fat chance; in this spot, under a hot sun, with the wrong bait, I thought. But the man’s love for his daughter was evident. I too fervently hoped the little girl would catch a fish. That miracle didn’t happen. But God planted in me a dream. Someday I’ll have a place where kids can catch a fish–a big fish.

Seventeen years ago, I achieved that dream. Kit and I nuture a fishing lake where we allow children and international guests to catch a fish–a big fish. Many who read this probably don’t know we offer fishing experiences. If you have school-age children, grandchildren, or mentor a child–perhaps from the city–you can contact us. We supply all the tackle and bait. All you need is a kid and a little hope.

Drew

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Communicating Effectively – 1 minute read

K&D

Two prominent Christian leaders at a missionary conference gave diametrically opposed interpretations of scripture. I expected the conference would be abuzz with controversy. But it wasn’t. To my astonishment, nobody I spoke to had noticed. Many extolled both speakers for their powerful presentations.

Two years later I served in a planning group with one of those speakers. Thinking that I could have been mistaken, I reminded him of the conference and asked, “Did the other man contradict you?”

He sighed. “Yes, he did.” And he sincerely thanked me for noticing.

I’ve since discovered that many people confuse the tone and delivery of a message with the content. Frequently they enjoy the presentation without being able to explain what it was about. But the fault is not all on the hearers. Speakers with willing listeners have a responsibility to communicate however necessary to be understood.

For the last ten years Kit and I have been teaching leaders all over the world how to effectively communicate God’s truth. In May, we’ll lead a similar training at FamilyLife for the third time.

Everybody knows that communicating effectively is also a requirement for a good marriage. We’ve been privileged to share biblical principles for marriage all over America. We would love to serve you by leading a seminar or retreat.

Manual Imp Comm

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Mining Joy – 2 minute read

DSCN0162

I’ve been thinking about my alma mater lately. Fifty years ago I studied engineering at Auburn University. Auburn’s basketball team recently advanced in the NCAA tournament to the final four for the first time in school history. That gave me profound delight. I’ve since wondered, Why did the success of some athletes you’ll never meet make you so happy?

You see, I’m not really an avid sports fan. Oh, I like sports on TV–mostly to help me sleep. And a younger me loved playing sports. Yet my head does understand the attraction of fandom. Being a fan of a team can give a person an identity and hundreds of thousands of fellow-fans to affirm their choice of identity. Sports can also give those socially conditioned to hide emotions a chance to display feelings publically. Neither attraction fits my temperament. So I care little who wins or loses, except for Auburn.

After four years of hard work, I graduated with high honor. I thought the world revolved around Auburn. Indeed my world had for four years. After graduation, I learned that nearly everyone feels exactly the same about their school. Neither do various rating services comparing colleges and universities reveal Auburn as being exceptional. The logical and honest side of me has pondered, Why do you have such lifetime loyalty for a place that knew you only as student 7075210 and not at all after graduating?

Auburn did give me an education that led to a wonderful career. That’s not enough to explain my loyalty. Rather I’ve come to realize that my feelings are based not on the school itself, but on my experiences there. Many never before–always after experiences were compressed into four adventurous years. I started Auburn at seventeen and immature even for that age–a person like an outline in a coloring book. I left Auburn colored in. At Auburn, I made decisions about who I would be for a lifetime. Auburn provided the nest in which adult Drew hatched.

One other factor explains my feelings of joy associated with Auburn. I’ve not remained in-touch with many of my Auburn friends. But I pray for them sometimes, wherever they might be. Whenever Auburn manages a major sports victory, I’m happy for those friends and share a dis-connected moment of joy with them. Memories can be like mining joy from your life. My prayer for you is to embrace eras of your life that give you joy to recall.

Love ya always, Auburn.

Drew Coons – Class of 1972

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Frogs on the Floor – 1 minute read

Scan070

Kit in Beautiful Fiji

Kit and I waited at a rural church in Fiji for a group of students to gather. We had been asked to talk candidly about sex and relationships. A big frog came hopping down the main aisle. I thought, This is different. When a second frog joined the first, snapping up bugs between the pews, I decided that we needed to run them out. The village children shrieked with laughter at my efforts to chase the frogs between the pews. Finally, with the frogs flushed out, we started the meeting.

The meeting started with some melodic Fijian songs. Enchanting moments like that are a  delightful benefit of serving overseas. But during the singing, more huge frogs joined us through the open door. By the time we stood to speak, tongue-snapping frogs hopped all around our feet. The frogs became a constant distraction to us.

Afterwards I fumed, “Lord, it’s hard enough trying to speak in another country, to a different culture and age group, without having to worry about stepping on frogs!” God immediately revealed to me my wrong attitude. I had been more concerned about showing how well I could speak than I was about the message the Fijians received. They didn’t care about the frogs.  

Thinking less about looking good and genuinely serving others despite distractions can provide us with a world of opportunities. Kit and I have spoken in thirty-nine countries outside the US, in some of the countries many times. Almost always, circumstances made the task difficult. “Frog on the floor,” we whisper to each other. We have learned to love them.

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Why us? – 1 minute read

Unbelievers sometimes ask, “How could anyone trust in a God who allows so much suffering?” If you choose not to trust in God, that’s a convenient, noble-sounding reason. But “so much suffering” is relative. Living in Africa, we saw many suffering the effects of polio, blindness due to measles, AIDS, and leprosy. To them, the suffering most people experience in America might seem less traumatic.

A more valid question is when Christians ask, as Gideon did in Judges 6:13, “If the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us?” They reason, “As a parent, I would never willingly allow my children such heartache. Why does our heavenly Father?” These often-unspoken questions can undermine our faith and render us ineffective for our Lord. God didn’t rebuke Gideon for asking, but God had to build Gideon’s faith through some remarkable signs. For us, God has given the Scriptures to build our faith.

For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:4)

9Cpg5VRA         The key to dealing with suffering is to focus on God in faith, maintaining confidence in His ultimate purposes. Indeed, faith of this nature is the key to a victorious Christian life. Our Bible-based life-skills book and discussion guide, More Than Ordinary Faith, explores God’s purposes for suffering.

However, our faith must be in God and not the purpose itself. For Scripture nowhere promises to reveal God’s exact purpose of suffering in a given situation. One reason God may not reveal His specific purpose is that to a person experiencing suffering, no reason would seem good enough. An honest Christian mother who had lost a child told us, “If God said to me that because of my son’s death, all of Africa would come to Christ, that would not have been a good enough reason.” Although God may not reveal His specific purpose in our suffering, He does give us plenty of precedents in Scripture to give us comfort and confidence that He does have an eternal purpose.

Drew Coons

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Abundance: Troubles in Paradise – 2 minute read

DSCN0982

Bermuda is beautiful.

We had planned, prepared, and prayed for the Weekend to Remember marriage conference in Bermuda. As Drew began, I thought about his challenge earlier. “Kit, this could be our last opportunity to present a Weekend to Remember. Let’s trust God to make it our finest hour.”

I didn’t feel my best from a sore throat caught on a previous trip. But each of us had persevered in difficult conditions previously. Drew looked at me, our signal for me to begin. I opened my mouth and couldn’t believe what came out . . . nothing. I had no voice. Actually, I had a very scratchy voice barely audible with my microphone. The audience cringed thinking I was in pain. No voice? The beginning of a full conference? How could this happen?

Drew and I have a contingency plan for almost any situation. You wouldn’t believe all the hurdles we’ve jumped over speaking internationally. But losing my voice had never occurred to us. Watching the reaction of the audience when I did manage to get a squeak out convinced me that I was a distraction. They seemed to be suffering as much as me. I told my first story, but then motioned to Drew to read the text in the manual. After the first talk, we did a little regrouping–more for Drew–less for me. We managed to get through the first night.

Back in our room, I had a heart to heart with the Lord. In truth, my prayers came out like a one way conversation. “I mean really? Lose my voice at a conference? What are we going to do?” I just couldn’t get over the challenge we faced.

Before I fell asleep Drew gently reminded me about the verses we had chosen for the year.“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed: perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed.” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10) He tried to encourage me that despite some troubles, we were not beaten. I mumbled something like, “Seems like we’re beaten to me.”

Morning came and miraculously my voice came back. Don’t I wish? But that was not the case. We spent the next hour rearranging our notes so that I would share my personal stores and Drew would do everything else. Once we began, my voice did seem a bit stronger, but as the day went on my voice weakened.

IMG_3101

Drew carrying on.

The audience was so gracious. They brought me cups of hot water, lemon, and honey to drink. Unfortunately, I only felt worse not being able to deliver the materials in the best possible way. I was crushed. Drew rose to the crisis with what I think was his best, most entertaining presentation ever. And he assured me that the audience appreciated me for my obvious struggle to serve them well.

After the conference one of the organizers said to me, “Kit, I know that losing your voice was hard for you. But I have to say that I think the audience benefitted by seeing a husband and wife working together as a team under difficult circumstances.” She went on to praise the conference as better than one she had attended in the US.

When we returned home, I wrote one phrase about our trip in my journal, “perplexed, but not in despair.” I still can’t believe I lost my voice. Surely that conference was not our finest hour. Or was it?

IMG_3118

Headed home

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 24 Comments

Something to Offer – ½ minute read

DSCN0848 (4)Somehow I managed to smash my good eye into a hard seat back on the first airline leg of our journey. Swelling quickly made my bad eye into my best eye. The swelling subsided, but left me with a world-class shiner. It made a nice conversation piece and subject for speculative jibes, especially since we are part of FamilyLife.

We attended a conference in a country our State Department recommends against visiting. There we met Christians from difficult countries few of us are likely to ever visit. These are men and women who put their lives on the line for Jesus Christ every day. Knowing them is a privilege.

And yet, we also have something to offer them. The biblical approach to marriage we teach is totally new to many. We led an encouragement and vows renewal program for two hundred couples. Sadly, some could not say one good thing about their spouses. Biblical marriage is a key part of God’s plan and an essential part of a thorough discipleship process.

Drew

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Life’s Not Fair – 1½ minute read

MiniBooks_Rendering

“I hope someday,” our parents told us, “that you have children just like you!” This mild form of parental revenge gave them a small measure of satisfaction in their frustration at our behavior. Someday, justice would be done. Had we thought about it, we might have agreed: “I hope that my children will be like me.” Perhaps we would have added, “Except with more opportunities than I was given.” Certainly, we assumed that we would have children.

However, life for some doesn’t turn out that way, and yet within nearly all of us is the desire to leave part of ourselves behind. We desire a somebody like us, only better, to see a future that we will not. This desire to nurture and teach a child by birth or adoption is a God-given instinct. Fulfilling instincts is a basic human need that, when denied, causes emotional turmoil.

Many heartwarming stories share about difficult situations that worked out miraculously or through a person’s iron-willed determination. The stories are useful in that they inspire hope. But sometimes life just doesn’t work out that way. What do we do in a situation that seems unfair? How to with a difficulty that is unfixable?

Our Life-skills book More Than Ordinary Challenge uses our situation of childlessness as one example. However, many other challenges can have the same emotional effect. Consider someone who longs for a loving spouse but doesn’t have one. Or someone who has lost a spouse by death or divorce. What about parents with a prodigal child who, despite receiving an ocean of love, discipline, and prayers, insists on making ruinous choices? Perhaps others struggle with a disability or illness that limits their dreams. Maybe parents have lost a child in a tragic accident. Some have been left alone through circumstances beyond their control. All these examples are unexpected and unwelcome life challenges.

Life-skills Books

Drew Coons

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment