Posts Tagged stories


PSALMS 95: 2 …Let us come before His presence with Thanksgiving and make a joyful noise unto Him in song.

I just opened an e-mail from a dear friend calling upon us to commence an oral history of our dear family. This call is extremely timely in an era of disintegrating morality and loss of respect for others. Only when we honor the values given us by our forefathers and mothers do we have a benchmark upon which to anchor our soul. Only when we celebrate the special high points of our common faith can we raise the discourse from the profane to the sacred. God asks us no less and expects a great deal more.

As I bowed my head to lead the family prayer today at the Thanksgiving feast I called on the Lord to grant me the honor that lived in the day, the special meal comprising a long list of great family recipes was prepared with love and forethought and gathered and prepared by our adult daughter. So many great memories of culinary excellence preceded it and each year it grew in perfection. It made it not just another holiday but a sacred event that bound us together and connected us to God’s blessing.

God gives us such a sacred sampler in life, in a week marked by the loss of a dear friend and newspaper editor, and a struggle with healthcare emerged this special moment to connect us again to His great gifts. Yet we often toss these blessings aside and dwell on the worst of times. We linger on mindless tweets that seek to point out the worst in others that seek to separate us from God’s special blessing.

I call today to my many readers to start a special family history pointing out the best in our kin that made us a family, to list the times we have benefited from their skill, love and care and to use at least one example to build a better life that we share with others. In this way we push back the wall of hatred and ignorance that is urged on us by the electronic wizards of our time. Our examples will grow into a sacred text we can share with our family and provide a cushion upon which to build an honorable life. This is David’s special wish and song…a celebration for all time. May God bless and keep you and grant you peace as we honor Him and each other in verse.



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Why It’s Important to Record Your Family Stories –

Why It's Important to Record Your Family Stories | Mitch Carnell, Storytelling, Family, Memory, Remembering, National Day of Listening

If you do not write or record your family stories, they will die with you, Carnell says.

Who was the funniest person in your family? Who was the most serious? Who was the caretaker? Who was the prankster?

Family stories are important. They tell who you are and where you came from.

My grandfather had the greatest laugh I had ever known until our son, Michael, came along. His laughter can light up the room.

My sister is the caretaker. She mothers everyone. Cousin Virgil could spin an unbelievable yarn. Uncle Calvin was the optimist. Daughter, Suzanne, could compete with my dad for being tenacious. The two of them were thicker than thieves.

You haven’t experienced anything as ridiculous as listening to my great-nephew, Justin, talking about his love affair with bologna. I hold the family record for preparing the worst ever Christmas ham.

I have a prized family heirloom. It is a record of the births and deaths of my father’s brothers and sisters in my grandmother’s handwriting on a parchment scroll. It was rescued in the nick of time from under my uncle’s house.

The record starts in 1888 with my grandparents’ wedding on Sept. 20. My dad took it with him to prove his eligibility for Social Security benefits. It made the rounds of the office before he got it back.

Why are these things important? These stories tell us who we are. If you do not write or record your family stories, they will die with you.

Nov. 24, the day after Thanksgiving, is the National Day of Listening. It was started by StoryCorps in 2008 as a day set aside to tell and record family stories. Where did your family come from? What brought them here?

My friend, Carl, tells the most wonderful stories about his father, who was one of the first highway patrolmen in Texas. I keep urging Carl to record his stories; otherwise, they will disappear with him. I would buy his book.

You may think that your family’s history is dull, and no one would be interested. Think again.

When I was writing my book, “Our Father: Discovering Family,” and was about to give up on the project, my wife said, “You have got to finish this at least for your grandchildren.” I finished it, and one of the reviewers said, “His grandchildren and great-grandchildren will treasure this.”

Of course, you can spend Black Friday shopping, but sitting with relatives, friends, fellow church members or civic club members and recalling and recording shared moments will prove to be much more meaningful. Try it with some older members of your church.

When I was about 9 years old, we were in Spartanburg, South Carolina, walking to the office of my ophthalmologist. I was a few paces in front of my parents. I heard my mother say to dad, “I’m not sure I want Mitch to get new glasses. He has always thought that I was so pretty.”

My late wife, Liz, was such a procrastinator that my sister told her, “Liz, you will be late to your own funeral.” As we were riding in the limo to her funeral, my sister said, “Mitch, look at your watch.” We were 10 minutes late.

Do I want that story to die with me? No, absolutely not.

When my children were small, we were driving to my Uncle Calvin’s funeral. We passed a small country church with a sign out front that read, “Revival in progress. Come and be revived.” Michael spoke up front the back seat and exclaimed, “Daddy, that’s where we can take Uncle Calvin.”

I never tired of hearing my dad talk about his asking my grandfather for my mother’s hand in marriage.

My grandfather was a big man, already dressed for bed in a nightshirt and barefoot. “There he was with tears flowing down his cheeks. ‘Well, Carnell,’ he said, ‘if you don’t know how to treat her, you know where you got her.'”

Your family stories are just as valuable as mine. Take some time. Laugh a little. Tell the stories. Be sure the voice recorder or video camera is turned on.

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Tell Your Family Stories

“Stories have to be told or they die, and when they die, we can’t remember who we are or why we’re here.” Sue Monk Kidd

You are the keeper of some wonderful family stories and history. Funny, strange, tragic, inspiring things happened that only you know about. Share them in a few sentences with other family members. We are not talking about revealing secrets or skeletons, just good stories. If you do not share these stories, they will be lost forever.

Here are some clues to get you started. These are just prompts. Looking at old family photographs will also help. If it is possible, drive or walk through your old neighborhood.

Where and when were you born?

Were you named after someone?

Did anything significant happen the year you were born?

Take a memory walk through your grade school or high school.

What teacher was in each classroom?

Visualize going to church or synagogue.

Where did you sit?

Who was your religious leader?

What was a family dinner like?

What was your first car?

How did you get it?

Who was your first real boyfriend or girlfriend?

Did you ever play hooky from school?

Where did you hang out?

What was your first job?

Who broke your heart?

Did something funny happen at your wedding?

How much was your first allowance?

What did you buy with it?

Who was your childhood hero?

Does your house or neighborhood have a ghost?

The day after Thanksgiving is designated as a National Day of Listening by Storycorps. It is a day set aside to tell and record family stories. Sit down with family members and encourage them to share their stories with each other. You might need to break the ice by telling your story first. Research has shown that children who know their family stories both the successes and failures are better able to cope with life as adults than those who do not know their stories. Stories connect us to each other. They create a bond.

My new book, Our Father: Discovering Family (WipfandStock), is full of stories. For each one that I recorded in the book, there are three or four that I didn’t include. As you recall one story, the telling will lead you to remember others.  Relax and enjoy the experience.

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Listening – A Gift We Don’t Use Often Enough

Listening – A Gift We Don’t Use Often EnoughMitch Carnell
Posted: Tuesday, November 22, 2011 6:33 am

Listening – A Gift We Don't Use Often Enough | Mitch Carnell, Listening

The National Day of Listening is a wonderful opportunity to listen to the stories of family and friends, Carnell says.

Editor’s note: The National Day of Listening was started by StoryCorps in 2008. Click here for more about the day, and here for a feature on StoryCorps.

The day after Thanksgiving is not only Black Friday, it is also NationalDayofListening. Here is one day when we are all encouraged to listen to each other. It is really a day to listen to family stories.

As a boy, I heard wonderful family stories that I let slip by. I didn’t realize what a gift I was being offered. Oh, how I wish I had listened more closely.

Family reunions, wakes and Sunday afternoon visits were rich with stories from past generations. Church socials provided even more opportunities to gain insights.

We spent Saturday nights at my grandparents’ house. They invited in some of the neighbors, listening to the radio while the children played nearby. The old stories were rich and punctuated with uproarious laughter.

My grandfather Gossett’s laugh was contagious. It was a Santa Claus laugh, and his personality matched his laugh. He was generous to the core.

I was raised on stories. I loved the illustrations in the Sunday morning sermons. I have enough preacher stories to last for at least one more lifetime.

Add to all of these the stories, illustrations and riddles from Royal Ambassador meetings, and I might last until Gabriel sends for me another century from now.

We Christians have inherited a wonderful oral tradition from our Jewish friends – and more than a few pagans. The Bible is the world’s greatest story book.

No, I am not downgrading the Bible; Jesus was the greatest storyteller of all time. How do I know that? Because we not only still tell his stories 2,000 years later, we are still arguing about what some of them mean.

We are still wondering about what he wrote when he knelt down and wrote in the sand. And one person told me there are 500 interpretations of the Prodigal Son parable.

When I was in elementary school, I went to a summer camp owned by radio and TV evangelist J. Harold Smith. I remember his stories about womanizing before I had a clue what he was talking about. But that didn’t stop me from asking my boyhood pastor, Roy Gowan, when he was going to tell us his story.

I remember his answer: “Mitchell, I thank God every day that he saved me from that kind of life.”

Never assume that people don’t hear or remember what you say. Don’t ever underestimate your influence. Preacher Gowan, as we called him then, is still a towering influence in my life.

“Listen!” Charles Stanley repeatedly pleads with his congregation to listen. Why? He knows most of them are doing something else.

This is no knock on Stanley. The disciples didn’t listen to Jesus, and as good as Stanley is at storytelling, Jesus has him beat hands down.

Robert Schuller can weave a great story. He can make you see, taste and feel the elements of his stories. He can make you believe you are on a journey with him.

Arthur Caliandro can take a simple story of people standing in line at an ATM and fill it with such meaning and depth that you are spellbound.

And Molly Marshall is a magician with words. She has the ability to take a complex idea and unwrap it right in front of you.

All of these great storytellers are nothing without listeners. If there is no one home when they are talking, the story is lost.

Jesus got right to the point when he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” What Jesus really said is, “Listen up. Pay attention. What I am telling you is important.”

The NationalDayofListening is a wonderful opportunity to listen to the stories of family and friends.

A few years ago, my Aunt Lala was in an assisted living facility, and I took my voice recorder when I visited her.

I asked her some family questions, and I was thrilled when she exclaimed, “Oh, I can tell you that.”

She was the last family member who could have answered those questions. The next week she fell and never recovered. She left me with a treasure beyond monetary value.

Our lives are made up of stories, and at some point they intersect because we all belong to the same family. Stay tuned in. Listen

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