What Story Are We Telling? {Book Club}

What Story Are We Telling? {Book Club}

Growing up, my dream was to be a writer or a journalist. I loved telling stories! I would imagine what prompted other customers to purchase the items in their cart, or where someone was headed as I watched cars out the window. My siblings had to put up with my narration as we played dress-up or with dolls.

The idea of telling better stories, as Osheta Moore shared in Chapter 10 of Shalom Sistas, stirs up that bit of imagination mixed with a heavy dose of compassion. It’s not a little girl’s made-up tales of strangers. Instead, we are remembering the humanity of the person we are interacting with and their value to our heavenly Father.

The rude customer? The grumpy taxi driver? The teammate who hurt us? What would happen if we chose to tell a better story about what is happening in their lives and what might be below the surface?

While I fully believe in the power of forgiveness and grace, I also feel like there’s a limit, or boundaries that need to be put around this idea. We cannot use grace to justify evil or explain away the choice to do wrong. There are simply people who are not safe, for ourselves or our mental and emotional health, for our children.

Sometimes it feels like those of us in the church are all or nothing. No consequences and absolute forgiveness, or full-on judgment. My heart wants balance—there are consequences and good boundaries, but there’s also forgiveness. Am I off on that? I’d love to know your thoughts on the idea of telling better stories and if there’s a limit to it.

In the back of the book Osheta lists a few ideas to make each chapter practical. I loved this one from Chapter 9 (which was part of last week’s section): place joy triggers in your home. It could be something colorful like a vase or flowers. Do you have joy triggers in your house? I’d love to know what they are.

A few ideas from this week’s section include:

  • Volunteer behind the scenes
  • Learn from someone who holds a different perspective from yours. Diversify your bookshelf, podcast feed, and the group of people you follow on social media.
  • Once a day for the next week, pray a prayer of gratitude for Jesus’ inclusive love that brought you in.

What ideas, big or small, do you have for seeking shalom with others? What nuggets did you pick up from this week’s section? Add your thoughts in the comments!

If you are behind, no worries! Catch up and come back to this post when you are ready. There’s always a spot here in Book Club for you!

We’ll cover the last part of the book next week.

March 30: Part 5 (Chapters 13-15)

Need a fun book for April? Join us as we read The Many Wonders of Costa Contente. Here’s a summary of the book:

There’s a small town on the South America coast where the sweet sea air mixes with fragrant tropical blossoms. It’s a place where the neighbors are kind, the parrots are helpful, and wonders abound in everyday life. Working together, the townspeople always come up with a plan to overcome any obstacle, large or small. Careful thought, hard work, and just that little bit of the magical assure that Costa Contente will continue to thrive for its people and the land on which it rests.

Here’s our April schedule:

April 6: Ch 1-7

April 13: Ch 8-11

April 20: Ch 12-15

April 27: Ch 16-18

Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash


  1. Michelle April 3, 2021

    I’ve had to try to sort out which chapters belong with which posts since I caught up the second half of the book all this weekend. I really loved this section as we considered peace within various relationships. The carpool story was great. A few quotes from this chapter really jumped out at me “Self-respect and enemy love are not mutually exclusive.” Pg 147. This made me think of your comment Sarah about how the church tends to go all or nothing with total condemnation or absolute forgiveness without consequences. There can be balance, and it can be beautiful and healthy. I think sometimes knowing (or making up) a back-story helps us to look through a lens of grace that might not have been there before. But understanding context doesn’t excuse sinful or hurtful behaviors that need to be called out or distanced from. I do think it might help us to choose forgiveness from a distance though. I’m not sure if that makes sense. But sometimes the best choice is to take a step back from a relationship. Forgiveness can still happen, even if the relationship is never fully restored. And a back-story might help that. Just my two cents!

    Going even a bit deeper, I also loved the quote “I’ve learned that love is the only force more powerful than anger or revenge. Love empowers us to forgive, and forgiveness is the scaffolding on which our better stories are built.” Pg 147 This makes me think of the passages in both Proverbs and First Peter where the idea of love covering a multitude of sins is addressed. The love doesn’t erase what happened. And I honestly don’t think it just ignores, or covers it up, but it washes over those sins with waves that are stronger.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann April 5, 2021

      Such great thoughts, Michelle! I appreciated what you mentioned about forgiving from a distance. Creating healthy boundaries or stepping away from a relationship doesn’t excuse us from the need to forgive or love. But forgiveness doesn’t necessarily mean restoration of relationship and trust, or emotional proximity. It’s a strange balance to find, I think! 🙂 Thanks for sharing those thoughts, I think I need to keep pondering them!

  2. Rachel Kahindi April 6, 2021

    I really loved the idea of telling better stories, especially as it applies to people I don’t know and probably won’t see again. I don’t see that I have anything to lose in offering grace to strangers.

    With people that I do know, the benefit of the doubt can only go so far. I think it’s possible to tell a better story (This person who I regularly interact with is verbally abusive because their parents tried to solve problems with harsh words, and they don’t know another way) while also choosing to put distance between myself and such a person. I agree that boundaries are healthy. And if it’s someone I have a close relationship with, a confrontation about their behavior would also be healthy.

    1. Sarah Hilkemann April 7, 2021

      Rachel, I think that’s a really important distinction between strangers we won’t see again, and those who are close to us or regularly interact with!

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