Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World

Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World

by Nish Weiseth


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780310338178
Publisher: Zondervan
Publication date: 08/05/2014
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.60(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Nish Weiseth grew up everywhere from Arizona to North Carolina. She went to the University of Colorado at Boulder where she did her undergraduate work in religious studies, philosophy and Italian and met her dark, mysterious, adrenaline-junkie husband, Erik. Nish is a writer, blogger, and entrepreneur. She launched the now wildly popular and influential collaborative blog, A Deeper Story, where over sixty writers share their stories in order to address issues found on the collision course between Christianity and culture. She is also the author of her own personal blog, nishweiseth.com. She and her husband live in Salt Lake City, Utah, have two young children and are members of Missio Dei Community.

Read an Excerpt


How Your Story Can Change The World

By Nish Weiseth


Copyright © 2014 Nish Weiseth
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-310-33817-8


When the Culture Is Divided

Listen Before You Speak

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

ROMANS 15:5–6

My husband, Erik, and I went through a period when we constantly had the TV on. And when it was on, it was usually tuned to CNN. We'd been called masochists before, and I suppose that subjecting ourselves to the steady hum of the twenty-four-hour news cycle could justify the moniker.

We were smack-dab in the middle of the 2008 presidential election season, so the rhetoric was cranked up and the news network pundits were salivating at the mouth, waiting for the next self-destructive sound bite from the candidates. To suggest the politicians' words were hateful would be no exaggeration.

Today, the cable news network pundits are still at it, the politicians are even angrier, and we in America are really more divided than we've ever been. Congress is at a standstill—Republicans and Democrats refuse to work with one another—and some politicians' approval ratings have never been lower.

Facebook users hurl insults and accusations at each other on issues ranging from health care to energy policy to gay marriage. Today, the heated rhetoric isn't just for politicians and pundits anymore, and I'd be lying if I said that election seasons didn't make me want to rip out my hair.

In a few short years, the nation has only become more entrenched in ideology, and we're still deaf to the opinions and ideals of those with whom we disagree. It's easy to lose hope, throw our hands in the air, and declare it all lost, believing that, no matter what anyone says, we're never going to hear each other.

I've witnessed the polarity of this division firsthand. In the last four years, I've moved from one extreme of American culture — Portland, Oregon—to another—Salt Lake City, Utah. Though I'm grateful the move has opened my eyes and deepened my understanding of the huge cultural and political gaps that exist in our country, I'm still recovering from the whiplash.

Portland and Salt Lake City—Polar Opposites

If you know anything about Portland, you know it's the nation's hub for religious cynicism, rampant liberalism, and dark wash skinny jeans. In Portland, there are more microbreweries and hipsters per capita than anywhere else in the country! (The brewery statistic is real; the hipster statistic is based on strong anecdotal evidence.) If you're not familiar with Portland, you can glimpse the town's bizarre and unique culture in the sketch sitcom Portlandia, starring Saturday Night Live's Fred Armisen.

Because of Portland's population and far-left progressive political leanings, Oregon is a firmly "blue" state on the electoral map. Portland, because of its skeptical nature, is also consistently ranked in the top three least-churched cities in the United States. Proud Portlanders are almost hostile toward conservatives of any kind. There is usually very little room for compromise on economic issues and almost no room for compromise on social issues.

Salt Lake City is unique in its own right. Founded in 1847 by Brigham Young and other leaders of the Mormon pioneers, Salt Lake City is the world headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). About 58 percent of Utah's population is considered LDS. Due largely to the LDS Church's stance on both social and economic issues, the state of Utah is considered the reddest state in the union.

So, to wrap that up for you, it's the polar opposite of Portland.

However, this great mountain city isn't entirely homogenous. Because of the surroundings—which are quite stunning; if you've never visited, you should, if only for the scenery—the state is home to a growing population of devoted outdoor enthusiasts. Because my husband is the general manager of a whitewater rafting business, we've become well acquainted with the dynamics of this community of outdoor enthusiasts on a professional level. It is relentlessly antiestablishment, antireligion, and antiorganized anything.

That Erik and I left Portland for Salt Lake City in 2011 means that for the 2008 election we were in Portland, and for the 2012 election we were in Salt Lake City. But where these two cities have their differences, they also have similarities—the biggest being the inability to bridge the divide between two ideologies. The divisions we see espoused by politicians in our government are a small snapshot of the deeper and broader divisions that have grown and fractured our states, cities, and communities.

What could possibly bridge the gap between these two opposing, cultural forces?

Janelle's Story

During my sophomore year at the University of Colorado in Boulder, I first began to understand the power of story and personal experiences in addressing difficult issues. A single encounter there was like a small seed planted in my heart that would be nourished, years later, when I heard Ann Voskamp trumpet the power of story once again.

Like most college sophomores, I had a firm grasp on what I believed, on what was wrong with the world, and on how I was the one with all the answers to fix those problems. And I'll never forget the moment when everything I knew about opinions and ideologies changed.

I was sitting in a relatively small class—in fact, we all fit around a large conference table. I think it was philosophy of religion. We were talking about the morality of violence and war, and the discussion turned to gun control.

I, being a proud Boulder progressive, stood firmly on the side of increased gun control. In my mind there was no excuse for violence. The conversation was lively, most of us aggressively pushing our agendas, vying for the professor's attention and approval.

Janelle, who was sitting next to the professor, sat silently through the whole debate.

When the discussion had died down a bit, the professor nudged her arm a little and asked her, "You've been pretty quiet. What do you think?"

The rest of us went silent as she sat up straight in her chair, eyes firmly focused on some spot on the table in front of her. She recounted a story from her childhood years.

Janelle grew up in a bad neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Her older brother was involved in a gang that pushed drugs to people in the area, and the group had a reputation for being involved in violent crime.

One night, someone came looking for Janelle's brother to exact revenge for something he'd done. Her mom, a single parent, was working the night shift at a gas station, so the older brother was responsible for Janelle that evening. She was asleep on the couch in the living area when the front door creaked open.

The man who opened the door had a gun in his hand, and it was pointed straight ahead in front of him. Janelle peered over the back of the couch, and the man caught sight of her.

He shouted, "Get out here or your sister is dead!"

The man grabbed her, pulled her over the couch, held her back against him, cocked his gun, and pushed the end of it into her temple. Janelle's brother came around the corner from his room. The man holding Janelle turned his gun toward her brother. Janelle's brother pulled out his own gun from the waistband of his pants, and a short firefight ensued. She fell to the ground and covered her head until it stopped.

When it was quiet, she could hear her brother moaning. Crawling over to him, Janelle discovered he'd been shot twice in the chest. Glancing toward the intruder, she could tell that her brother's gunfire had killed him instantly. Janelle called 911 and curled up next to her brother on the floor while she waited for the ambulance to arrive. The paramedics arrived, but it was too late. He was gone.

Janelle was seven years old.

When she finished telling the story, Janelle continued to stare at the table, showing no emotion at first. We all sat quietly.

When Janelle started to speak again, her voice quavered.

"I think we all agree we shouldn't stand on the side of violence. We should stand for peace. But when it comes to guns and gun control, I feel a little conflicted. It's hard for me to not be in support of our right to bear arms. My brother's right to carry and use his weapon was, I believe, the reason I'm still alive today. I don't know what that man would have done to me. But I also know the intruder had a right to bear his weapon that day too. And his abuse of that right killed my brother."

She sighed.

"It's never as black-and-white as we want it to be," she continued. "Especially when someone's story gets injected into the conversation. All of a sudden, it gets messy. But it's better if it's messy, I think."

Her observation hit me like a punch to the stomach. Everything hurt, and I couldn't really catch my breath. After listening to Janelle, I realized her ambivalent view about gun control—or difficulty in forming one—was valid, and it was shaped by an incredibly intense experience, one I couldn't imagine in my darkest dreams.

We shifted in our seats. We thanked her for telling her story. We picked up the conversation—but something had changed. All of a sudden, we were talking about ways to be proactive when it comes to violence in our communities. We shifted to talking about education and childhood intervention in low-income areas. Our discussion became less philosophical and more practical. The ideas were brought down to earth, and I caught my professor smiling brightly, taking notes and encouraging us on.

Why Listen?

Janelle's deeply personal story moved us from finger-pointing to problem solving, and I wondered even then, "Can stories really do this? Can stories really change the?"

Yes, they can. But only if we're brave enough to listen—then speak.

This culture we live in, this generation I'm a part of, is teetering on the fence between unending apathy and an explosion of frustration. As a result of money's power and influence in our political system, our own ability to influence change at the political level is shrinking. Our voices are being drowned out by the constant chatter and vitriol found on the twenty-four-hour news networks and on the Internet. We're being defined by the sarcasm and wit of Jon Stewart. Most of all, we're being sold the lie that our differences are more important than what we have in common.

I am so tired of the puffed-up, heated rhetoric that's full of empty promises and overgeneralizations. Those of us in the millennial generation have the potential to rise above the apathy we've been labeled with.

Change will start with us.

It starts over coffee, asking a neighbor what her childhood was like.

It starts with knowing the homeless man's name—the one who stands on the corner by your apartment every afternoon—and then asking how you can help.

It starts with getting out from behind a screen and picking up the phone to call a friend you haven't heard from in a while.

It starts in our homes, in our families.

It starts with teaching our kids to listen before speaking.

It starts with turning off the constant chatter of the talking heads on CNN.

It starts with us.

It starts with knowing and sharing our own stories.

It starts when, after listening, we decide to speak.

It starts with understanding our own history and how we arrived at the opinions we hold today.

What has shaped you the most over the years? Is it your relationship with your parents, or the lack thereof? Or maybe you were moved by that series your pastor preached a few years back. Was your worldview impacted when your high school friend went to get that abortion? Perhaps it was sitting with your friend after her son was diagnosed with cancer—and you knew she didn't have health insurance.

Real people stand behind the issues that face our culture and government, but their faces are fading into gray. We're losing sight of them. The only way to bring them back into the forefront of the conversation is to know their stories and be brave enough to tell them. Their stories matter.

I've come to believe that government or institutions aren't going to fix all the problems of the world. And as a believer in Jesus Christ, my allegiance lies with His kingdom first—not with a political party, platform, or ideology. As His follower, I've been instructed to be in this world but not of it. So I live in this torrential tension, which won't fully resolve until He comes back to make all things new.

I can see Jesus' kingdom breaking in, in big and small ways, right here, right now. And part of that transformation is looking past the issue and into the heart of the person.

Jesus cared far more about people than policy.

Jesus Values Our Stories

One of my favorite stories in Scripture tells of a sinful woman who walks into the home of a Pharisee. The boldness of this woman is fierce, but the real game changer is Jesus' reaction to her and how He interprets her actions to those around Him.

Jesus was having dinner at the home of Simon, a Pharisee. The text doesn't tell us what was happening when the woman arrived, but it does say Jesus had "reclined at the table." It was likely that the guests were a group of men, and they were sitting around talking after having finished their meal. Culturally, a woman would not be welcome.

Yet, here comes this woman—someone who "lived a sinful life," as the Scriptures describe her—carrying a jar of expensive perfume. She wants nothing more than to be with Jesus, and when her tears wet His feet, she wipes them with her hair. She was a woman, at a table of men, crying at the feet of Jesus with her hair down. She broke almost every cultural expectation in the book.

Simon the Pharisee is appalled, and in other accounts in the Gospels, the disciples are too. But Jesus is a lover of people, not policy. So not only does He welcome the worship of this sinful woman and forgive her sins; He reaches out to Simon and tries to explain the significance of her very personal and vulnerable actions with a story about the gratitude of those who've been forgiven much.

Jesus valued people's stories. He sat with the prostitutes and tax collectors, and He knew their stories. He also told stories of His own, both to address the heart of the matter and the heart that needed tending.

With the power of Christ in us, we have the courage to speak. We have the power to use our own stories and lives to build bridges across the divisive gaps in our culture. It just takes a soft, knowing nudge on the arm as we ask first, "What do you think?"


Excerpted from Speak by Nish Weiseth. Copyright © 2014 Nish Weiseth. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Foreword Shauna Niequist 13

Introduction 17

The Problem: We're Divided

1 When the Culture Is Divided: Listen Before You Speak 31

2 When the Church Is Divided: Sit at the Well 47

3 When the World Is Divided: Raise a Silent Voice 71

The Solution: Story Changes Hearts

4 Claiming Our Unique Gifts: God's Kingdom Is Built 97

5 Vulnerably Offering Our Stories: God's Kingdom Is Blessed 115

The Outcome: Story Changes the World

6 Story Can Proclaim God at Work in Our Cities 143

7 Story Can Advocate for Justice 165

8 Story Can Proclaim God's Kingdom 179

Thank You 195

Organizations That Are Advocating for Justice 199

Notes 205

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Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
pastordt More than 1 year ago
So now, the Editor-in-Chief of ADS has written a book. A fine book, an easy-to-read book. And guess what it’s about? Well, of course it is — it’s about telling YOUR story, because YOUR story is important. And it’s about telling your story because that is a much better, gentler, more effective way to interact with one another in this online space and in everyday life. On the back cover of this delicious new book, Nish Weiseth asks this critical question: “How would your life be different if you shared your stories rather than your opinions?“ Can I get an ‘amen’ to that?? How many times a day do you find yourself in a situation where you feel frustrated, ignored, misunderstood, even rejected by the words and/or actions of someone else? Maybe a someone you don’t know all that much about. And what if knowing that someone’s back-story might help you understand why he/she acts the way they do? Because knowing someone’s story makes a huge difference in how we see them, how we approach them, what we say to them and how we say it. Stories are powerful and effective ways for us to see one another as whole people. People who have been wounded, who have survived, who have made mistakes, who have learned from some of those mistakes and repeated too many of them. When we know someone’s story, we are able to hear them differently, to hold their words and actions with a greater sense of equanimity and compassion. Stories can change the world. Surely, Jesus thought so — he used all kinds of them during his ministry years. This faith that we hold dear is built on THE story, the one about grace and love and finding and seeking and life and death and resurrection. I stake my life on that story. Woven throughout Nish’s wonderful book are eight examples of story-telling from the pages of A Deeper Story, a lovely addition to the overarching theme, each one a stellar example of how vulnerable, searching story-telling touches hearts and changes lives. What if instead of arguing with one another, we told each other our stories? What if we committed ourselves to learning about one another before offering judgment? What if we stopped the frantic searching for how-to, if we took a break from finding a-new-and-better-program? What if we began asking, “Who are you?” “Why are you here?” Rather than, “How can I make you stay and look like everybody else here at this church?” What if we trusted that God is going before us in each person who comes through our doors, that God has been at work long before we ever came along, that the newcomer or the millennial or the senior or the one who doesn’t look like the rest of us is already on the way into the kingdom? What if our role is simply to tell our story and then listen to the other’s? Could it be that straight-ahead, that personal, that simple? Oh, I think Nish is onto something. Really, I do.
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