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I attended a wonderful seminar and workshop this evening at Ten Chimneys, the world-class house museum and estate of Broadway greats Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Ten Chimneys’ fifth tour season will begin in a few weeks.

In preparation for it, and as a continuing education offering to docents, tonight’s seminar was on the art and delight of story-telling led by Betty Manion. We started with some observations on creativity, then rolled up our sleeves and went to work, Betty’s stories illustrating her points as we moved through the evening. We had fun. We learned – which is wonderful when you’re having fun. We practiced, shared, laughed, and compared perspectives. We even enjoyed a bit of spirited dialogue on a point or two, which is precisely as The Lunts would have wanted it!

If this was football, which is also big in Wisconsin, in my book Ten Chimneys has an undefeated winning streak going into its fifth season. It’s an honor to be associated with this organization as a docent, and to be a next door neighbor as well.  Honest! My back yard shares a property line with the historical part of the estate. Gotta luvvit!

I always look for at least one thing I can carry away from events like these and tonight there were two. The Story-Telling category on Vibrance is one of them. I’ve enjoyed hearing stories as long as I can remember. I loved seeing Grandpa Ransom become so enthralled with the jokes and  stories he told that he could barely reach through his laughter to grab the punch line. I developed the fine art of sitting through church as a boy hearing only the sermon illustrations – the stories.  Nowadays the world slows on its axis –at least for me– when I hear Garrison Keillor say “It was a quiet week in Lake Wobegon.”  My family gave me the screen play for “Prairie Home Companion” for my birthday and I think I read it in one sitting.   

My kids loved stories growing up. Trouble is, sometimes they were more wide-awake at story’s end than I wanted them to be! I’m a grown man and I still tell them; stories I mean.  And why shouldn’t I? One of history’s greatest teachers walked this earth two thousand years ago, and stories were one of His primary teaching tools.  I weave stories into my tours at Ten Chimneys because I believe they’re the best way to get a point across.  Someone said “‘Thou shalt not’ is soon forgotten but ‘Once upon a time’ tends to linger forever.”  If you’re one of my guests I’m going to do my best to get you to laugh at the same things the Lunts did when they lived here, and I’m silently hoping you’ll feel a lump in your throat or dry a tear three or four times in the two hours we have together. When I’m teaching or speaking I use stories and illustrations to illustrate my point -as Betty did this evening- and to bring some cheer and a bit of lightheartedness into this world of ours.

While on our walk with Mrs. Manion through creativity, story-telling and some exercises to let us touch technique, an idea whispered itself in my ear. I smiled, having given up arguing with myself long ago, especially at events like this, uncapped my pen and wrote myself a note. “Story-telling needs to be a category on Vibrance.”  So here it is. If you scroll along the right hand sidebar until you find “Story-Telling” in the Categories & Tags section, you can click on it to find other posts that include or talk about stories. I’ve gone back and added some earlier posts into this new category to help you find the stories I like, perhaps you will too.

Since it’s new, we won’t define the category too carefully, at least at first. Some posts, like this one, may be about story-telling.  Some include a bit of story.  Some are stories, plain and simple. But since I use this art-form so much in life and ministry I thought it a good idea to at least tab some of my stories here so you can find them easily. I hope you’ll enjoy. I hope they give you a little nudge to use the art of story-telling for teaching, remembering, and just plain fun.

Thanks, Betty, you were great! Thanks Ten Chimneys, it was an evening well-spent!

I’m looking forward to a wonderful season in 2007!

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