Why the Stories We Tell Matter

Arguably the most important election of our lifetimes, months of nonstop controversy, brave local and state officials working long nights, a gravely worsening pandemic, the Christmas holidays, emergency jaw surgery, yet even more controversy, New Years, an attempted national level coup. No, this isn’t the newest dystopian YA trilogy. It’s the last 2 months of my life in the US of A.

I didn’t set out with the idea of “let me write a political blog.” Not in a million years. Not this conflict adverse introvert who is perfectly happy to have her nose in a book or a paintbrush in her hand. Occasionally both at the same time.

I’ve been watching, reading, researching and oh-my-heavens, praying. Spending the edges of my days trying to wrap my head around these last weeks. Images of a frenzied mob storming the US Capitol and the looming threat of more violence turning DC into a green zone that looks more like it belongs in Iraq than the USA.

If we want to truly heal the divisions that are gaping canyons in this nation right now, we must change far more than our current rhetoric. We need to understand the root issues and the stories that have given rise to them.

If the last few years have taught us anything, it should be that the stories we tell ourselves, and one another, matter.

Some of you may be wondering, “Hey, Michele why are you jumping in now?” I hear ya, I’m not a huge fan of armchair quarterbacking either.

Partly, it’s timing personally (jaw recovery time, looking at you). But more than that it’s the realization that in the middle of the melee is usually not the best time to try to start a conversation about what provoked and fed it. Even more sobering is the realization that the Trump presidency may be ending, but for roughly half the USA, the Trump era most certainly is not.


In case we haven’t met, I’m Michele, now a content strategist + educator for creative small businesses. But for the first 20ish years of my adult life, I worked full-time overseas and domestically with a variety of faith-based nonprofits and ministries that are smack dab in the middle of the independent charismatic evangelical movement. And for ten of those years, I was an ordained pastor. Could marry, bury, the whole shebang.

All that to say, I’m not writing mere theory and abstraction. I’ve seen many of the ideologies up-close-and-sometimes-way-too-personal. I’m not a reporter and these articles should not be read like in the sense of “reporting news”. What I write is however heavily researched. The views I share here are my own formed from that research and my own experience.

And I would strongly encourage you to not take anyone’s word as “gospel” these days… including mine.

Read the sources referenced. Look up the Bible verses mentioned, preferably in more than one translation. Do your homework. Pause. Dig. Think. Pray. Agree. Disagree. Just make sure you know that your views are your own. And any healthy spiritual leader in your life should be asking you to do the same thing. Check them. Research. Grapple. Know your why.

Who This is For

Everyone’s welcome, but I’m playing favorites just a tad writing for two main audiences.

I’m writing for those of you who are still in the evangelical and charismatic church circles I came out of. Maybe you’re on the edge, feeling unsettled, starting to ask questions, and wondering how what you are seeing lines up with Jesus. You aren’t alone.

And I’m writing for those of you who are the nones and dones 1 who have left the system, or who never were in it, to begin with. Those of you who are confused, angry, rejected, and hurt by what you have experienced.

I am not writing for folks who are super happy with their idea of church or politics as is and who don’t want their comfort zone challenged. I am not here to debate conspiracy theories or theology or 1000 debatable things. I am not here to convince people who don’t want to be convinced.

My starting place

So much confusion comes because we don’t define our terms or identify our biases. I want this to be a safe place with as little confusion as possible, so here are some helpful things to know about where I am coming from.

Let’s start with a few key terms:

  • Christian: someone who intentionally follows Jesus and identifies as such
  • Evangelical: I am usually speaking about the modern subculture known as evangelicalism and related evangelical theology. I am not speaking about the biblical term evangel roughly translated as good news.
  • Church: the community of those who intentionally follow Jesus, regardless of their label.
  • Kingdom of God: the spiritual reality Jesus talks about
  • Word of God: Jesus

My spiritual bias is for relationship over doctrinal dogma. I believe the Bible is inspired and important, but not inerrant or infallible. (Yes, I will be writing about that.) I believe God is love and is knowable on a personal level. I do not believe it is my job to convince, convict, or change anyone’s beliefs. My current political bias is moderately left of center as center as shifted farther right. And this is my personal blog. It is purely a personal passion project and will be happening on the edges of my days running a full-time business, as space and energy allow.

Why stories matter

Story. It is one of the most powerful teaching tools there is. Jesus taught in the stories we have come to know as parables. We are hard-wired for story and connection. Stories create a scaffolding to organize our beliefs. If your beliefs are like clothing pieces, then the stories that frame and organize them are like the racks in your closet on which those clothing items hang. Stories give our beliefs meaning, order, and become the lenses through which we interpret the world.

Facts rarely go viral. Stories go viral. And because stories shape the fabric of our perception and understanding, identifying the stories we tell ourselves and one another is crucial to discern accurately what the “facts” actually are. People often have different interpretations of the same set of facts and are still telling the truth.

Different stories being told about the same facts do not mean someone is lying. Sharon McMahon (@sharonsaysso on Instagram) defines bias “as how one describes or characterizes a set of facts”, and the subsequent narrative that gets told about those facts.

The stories we tell ourselves and one another have enormous power to shape the way we see and interact with the world around us. They can even affect our brain’s ability to recognize and interact with needed information. We are going to be talking about this a lot here going forward.

Leveling the expectations

Ok. Let’s level set some expectations for what’s to come. We are not going to solve the world’s problems in any one post/article alone. This is just the beginning. One post isn’t going to lay out all the arguments or provide all the research. The topics I am writing about here are as vast as they are nuanced. So we will take one little piece at a time.

What I write is my opinion based on research and experience. You are welcome to look at the same research and hold a different opinion. That doesn’t make either of us better than the other.

That being said, I am going to be tipping some sacred Americana golden cows here.

Some of you may read things that you deeply disagree with. DEEPLY. I get it. I really do. Let me encourage you to step back, take a few breaths, and ask yourself WHY you disagree so viscerally. Go deeper than because the Bible tells me so. It might indeed tell you so. The Bible says a lot of things. And they all probably don’t provoke the same level of invested response. So, why does this one thing cause you to recoil or rage?

Asking honest questions isn’t the sign of an unraveling faith. It’s the sign of building a faith that can stand up to criticism and conflict, and still live out of a place of compassion and wholehearted communication.

This is the faith that can live in the tension between viewpoints and begin to work towards reconciliation. I’m grateful you’re here and I look forward to all that’s to come.

1. Terminology adopted from Church Refugees, Packard + Hope, https://amzn.to/3bX3uQF
(Some links are affiliate links where I earn a small commission I can put back into growing this space.)

It’s Still an Unpaved Road

I nestled into this corner of the internet sharing stories and lessons being learned a world and a decade away in Africa. Typing out the story unfolding around me to flickering kerosene lantern light on a waning laptop battery with a dusty keyboard missing keys.

A few years later my health crashed and organizational changes I had no control over landed me back in Florida. I tried to keep writing here, but I kept staring at a defiant empty screen and that ever blinkin’ cursor. My heart was in 10,000 pieces.

Sometimes our stories need silence to become what they truly are.  Stories reduced down to truth lived out.  Stories with skin made real in seasons that leave stretch marks on our souls.  Seasons change and we change with them.  We ebb and flow, and old words and worlds fall away.

I made a commitment to you and to myself, I would only write here when I had something to say. It’s been a few years.

As my nation (USA) teeters on the edge of unrest and arguably the most important election of our lifetimes, I’ve been watching these last four years play out, and friends… I’m back.

This is still an unpaved road, a narrow path, a journey into becoming. But this time it’s different.

When I wrote before, I was working for a large international ministry as a relatively known leader. That meant I had to be mindful of what narrative I shared and how I shared it because it impacted many more people than just myself. I had to steward both my own story and how it fit into the broader organizational storyline around me.

Learning to navigate the institutional settings of Christendom was then an occupational hazard.  I worked and led in ministry settings for over 2 decades, on or between 3 continents.  I saw wonderful things and met some of my dearest friends.  But I also experienced a system whose shards frequently wound the very people it claims to serve.

It cost me deeply, but it also has made me who I am today.  For that I am grateful.

I am also profoundly grateful my journey has led me out of the settings I once worked within.  Over the last few years, I turned in my ordination, shuttered my faith-based nonprofit, and stepped into the unknown.  This is the story of my undoing, and my becoming.  This is the story of finding my voice, and the courage to use it.

I have the privilege of sharing freely and delving into topics that wisdom prevented until now.

Some things remain. I don’t write here to give you answers and I certainly don’t write to tell what you should believe.   I write with the wild hope that me sharing my journey might somehow become an invitation for you to embrace more of your own.

Whatever that journey looks like.  Wherever these words find you.  However they encourage or challenge you.  Take the ones that give you life.  Leave the rest.

I’m still here to talk about faith.  About finding it in unexpected places.  Having it stretched, shredded, shattered.  Then reframed, renewed, and remolded. All in ways I could never have imagined.

Jesus is still central to my story.  But not the neatly packaged, very white, GQ Jesus I saw in Sunday School books and films.  Not the Jesus with a doctrine ruler sternly checking to see if I said the right words and measured up to his standards. Not the Jesus portrayed in identity politics or used to back nationalistic slogans.

Rather, my story is about the Jesus who has met me again and again in the middle of my deepest fears.  The Jesus whose eyes see and love completely. The Jesus who flips over tables of injustice and so often looks different than the very institutions that bear his name.

Full disclosure. I no longer identify with the conservative evangelical model of Christianity. In some ways I never fully did. In others, I have grown and changed as I’ve listened harder and looked beyond some of the messaging bubbles I had previously accepted. These last 4 years have shown me a lot about who I don’t want to be and what I don’t believe.

So. I’m back friends. Unvarnished. Unfiltered by organization. Raw. Real as I know how to be. This space is going to be me reflecting on the unpaved road now winding through the intersection of faith, culture, and theology. A pandemic project for the edges of my days.

Some of you who have been with me the longest may find yourself disappointed or even at odds with my current views. I love you dearly, but if this space no longer gives you life, please spend your time online in places that do. Others of you may be really encouraged. I’m not trying to argue with or change you. Changing anyone is way above my pay grade.

But I will not, I can not be silent.

Fellow Americans, this election doesn’t change who we are. It reveals who we are.

In the strange state of limbo that we are currently suspended in, math and patience have overtaken global headlines. We wait for what lies ahead. However, friend, you are not alone in the waiting. Welcome to the unpaved road.