Telling Stories

Telling Stories

Telling Stories 150 150 Paul Phillips

The storyteller sits, spinning his yarns into fabric.

That’s what they call it, isn’t it?  A fabrication?

I listen anyway.  Still, as the story goes on, I begin to see the ravelings poking through here and there.  His tale may have started with a few facts, but somehow it doesn’t all fit in a continuous pattern.

I want to reach for the edge of his fabric and pull at one of those loose ends.  I just know that, like the cartoon character with a loose thread on his sweater which gets caught in a passing car, the story will unravel and the naked truth will come out.

I have done that more than once before.  I’m learning (finally) to leave the loose threads alone and let the story spin out.

Some things are more important than being right.

Do you know how hard that is for me to say?

I grew up in a home where being right was paramount.  Lies were set straight and wrong attitudes corrected immediately.

It’s what you do for your children.  We call it teaching, and it is the responsibility of every parent.

But, the faults of others who were not part of our family were also pointed out to us constantly.  My parents didn’t want to miss the opportunity to help us make good decisions.

Examples are helpful when teaching children, so folks we knew became our cautionary examples, their faults often looming larger than life in our little eyes.  Their good traits could never balance their bad ones.

Black.  White.

Heads.  Tails.

What should have been lessons meant to help us examine our own steps and language became cause for comparison.

Comparisons stink.

I’m not the first to say it.  I won’t be the last.  The real problem lies in the fact that I kind of like the odor.

Comparisons where I come out ahead make me feel good about myself—for awhile.  I begin to believe that God, perhaps, loves me better.  I’m one of His favorite sons because of my concern with doing things right and in order.

Surely, it’s true.

It is not.

Grace pays no attention to the design of the filthy rags it washes. It takes no notice of the tag ends hanging from the corners.


Grace pays no attention to the design of the filthy rags it washes. @HesTakenLeave Click To Tweet


The storyteller with his lying ways is no worse—nor better—off than the listener who sits nearby and tends the kernel of pride in his soul, growing quickly into a full-grown bush of snobbery.

I know how hard the fall is when pride takes its inevitable tumble, and it is inevitable.

Sinners sin.  We sin, not all in the same way, but we sin.

It has taken many years for me to understand that grace, for all its astounding power, doesn’t remove sin, but the penalty for sinning.  Justification is the work of grace.  

We who have been justified—through grace—are called to be sanctified.  All that means is we are called to become holy, or set apart, as He is.

We have to take a walk.  It’s something we do with others.  Not surprisingly, we don’t all start the walk with the same baggage.

There are folks with sexual sins, addicts, liars, thieves, gluttons, drunks—the list is not short.  He doesn’t require that we clean up before we become part of His family.  What happens after that though, is different.  (1 Corinthians 6:9-10)

This walking we do is a progressive thing.  The people we walk with may not be at the same place in the process as we are.

May not isn’t the right way to put it.  They will not be at the same place.

We walk with them anyway.  There’s a reason for that:

We still need each other.  Travelers on their own rarely reach their destinations without meeting calamities along the road.  It is our lot in life to depend on help through the tough places.

I have refused—refused—to lend aid to folks in the past.  Somehow I thought I might get dirty in the process.  I could have nothing to do with people who sinned in that way.

Do you hear what I’m saying?

I’m not alone, am I?  We are a prideful and hypocritical lot, aren’t we?

We who have been forgiven freely, refuse to believe that God could forgive that.

That!  How could He?  How would He?

He could.  He has.

Those stinking comparisons.  Still, their stench fills the air around me, like the grotesque odor of bone burning under the dentist’s drill.

But, a lifetime of making comparisons has paralyzed me.  I want to walk with others, but my paralysis stops me.

And then, I remember the Great Physician, to whom the man, bed-ridden with paralysis, was brought on that day a couple thousand years ago.  The Healer said only two things to him.  It’s all that was necessary. (Mark 2:1-12)

Your sins are forgiven.

Get out of that bed and walk.

Even today, the paralysis of a lifetime of thought patterns is banished with those words!

Freedom!  At last.

At last.

I’m walking.

There’s still room on the road beside me.

May it never be otherwise.



Originally published on Paul’s blog at



Paul Phillips

Paul Phillips is a writer, a fifty-something grandfather, and follower of Christ. He's also a legend in his hometown, having been "owner, janitor, and gofer" of Whitmore's Music in Siloam Springs, AR since 1985. Follow Paul's blog, He's Taken Leave (, where he weaves nostalgic stories of life and faith.

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