How Much Does My Soul Weigh?

“You don’t have a soul. You are a Soul. You have a body.” | George MacDonald

How do you prove a “soul” exists? Back in 1901, Dr Duncan MacDougall, did a famous experiment of weighing bodies that were at the point of death;
and then claiming to have shown that when the soul leaves the body,
the weight of the body diminishes by something like 21 grams.

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So… “how much does my soul weigh?”
I’ve been thinking about this for weeks.
I finally bit the bullet and while on FaceTime with my Dad last week,
I set the challenge.
Let’s both write a piece about it.
So here they both are:

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HOW MUCH DOES MY SOUL WEIGH?
Wendy Johnston

I am a soul.
An imperishable thing.
An immortal being.
An eternitarian.
I am the essence of me.

How much do I weigh?

I became “a soul” in my creation.
God’s divine breath – breathed me into life
One divine breath and I’m in God’s image.
But I am more than this human body.
The person I am is “a soul”.

So how much do I weigh?

My soul is my reason and thinking.
My soul is my perception and memory.
My soul is my feeling and consciousness.
My soul is my empathy and compassion.
And my soul is my character – what makes me just me.

But how much do I weigh?

When my body is tired and done.
Just a shell that holds the soul that is me.
There will still be living to come.
Death is just a doorway, a part of life not the end.
I’m gathered up in death’s arms and carried.
I’ve exhaled my last in this old shell, leaving my body lighter…

…by so much more than 21 grams.

That’s how much my soul weighs.

 

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HOW MUCH?
Ray Akers

How much does a soul weigh?
Tell me if you dare.
How much does a soul weigh?
Does anybody care?
It seems like such a waste of time
To follow down that futile line
To struggle hard through every day
To find how much a soul may weigh.

How much does a soul cost?
Well that’s another story.
How much is a soul worth?
The answer’s found in glory
My Saviour died to save my soul
And rose again to make me whole
The weight of my soul meant little to him.
He was concerned by the weight of my sin.

How much does my soul weigh?
I really do not care.
How much is my soul worth?
Now, that, I’d gladly share.
Weighed in the balance and found to be short…
Can’t help myself… so feeling distraught,
I turned to my Saviour and asked for his aid.
And the weight of my sin on his back was laid.

 

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Becoming a Master

Who knew I could do this? Certainly not me!

Hello Dear Storytellers – yes you’re all storytellers.

I’m so sorry I’ve been absent.
I’ve been doing “life” stuff like packing up after 11 years in one place and moving to a different city.
And now I am emerging from the boxes and mess, missing the old, expectant for the new and a little more life scruffy than before.

But before I start exploring what my new place and space will look like for me, I have come to the Festival Gathering of the Network of Biblical Storytellers, (Int’l) to graduate.

From what?
I have spent two years as a student of the Academy for Biblical Storytelling which is part of the Network of Biblical Storytellers, Int’l and yesterday I graduated as a Master Biblical Storyteller.

I never imagined I could do something like this, but after lots of hard work, periods of time when I thought my brain would never recover from being mushy and many, many tears and drama, I’ve done it.

This is the culmination of 18 years of being a biblical storyteller.

But this is just the beginning…

 

6th SUNDAY OF EASTER: JOHN 15:1-17

Hello Dear Ones. Well, I’m a little behind this month but finally my May blog is done. Life is a little crazy. Packing and preparing to move house will do that to you! I hope this month’s story is helpful. I loved digging deep into the characters of the The Vine and The Branches and especially The Vine Grower. Remember this is God’s story and what a story it is. WJ.

1. Read

John 15:1-17 (NRSV)

Jesus the True Vine

15 “I am the true vine,
and my Father is the vine-grower.

He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit.
Every branch that bears fruit
he prunes to make it bear more fruit.

You have already been cleansed
by the word that I have spoken to you.

Abide in me as I abide in you.

Just as the branch
cannot bear fruit by itself
unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you
unless you abide in me.

I am the vine,
you are the branches.

Those who abide in me
and I in them
bear much fruit,
because apart from me
you can do nothing.

Whoever does not abide in me
is thrown away like a branch
and withers;

such branches are gathered,
thrown into the fire,
and burned.

If you abide in me,
and my words abide in you,
ask for whatever you wish,
and it will be done for you.

My Father is glorified by this,
that you bear much fruit
and become my disciples.

As the Father has loved me,
so I have loved you;
abide in my love.

10 If you keep my commandments,
you will abide in my love,
just as I have kept my Father’s commandments
and abide in his love.

11 I have said these things to you
so that my joy may be in you,
and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment,
that you love one another
as I have loved you.

13 No one has greater love than this,
to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
14 You are my friends
if you do what I command you.

15 I do not call you servants any longer,
because the servant does not know what the master is doing;
but I have called you friends,
because I have made known to you everything
that I have heard from my Father.

16 You did not choose me
but I chose you.
And I appointed you to go and bear fruit,
fruit that will last,
so that the Father will give you
whatever you ask him in my name.

17 I am giving you these commands
so that you may love one another.

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1. Read-3

THE VINE GROWER
(based on John 15)

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Ancient, gnarly hands rest with surprising gentleness on his knee.
A little waft of smoke rises from an old wooden pipe between his thumb and fingers.

It’s October, but he has no need of a calendar.
He knows the weather is turning.
He can feel it in his bones.
He moves the pipe to his mouth, using his lips to draw on it and settle it,
in its familiar spot,

And then those ancient hands, which have overseen timeless seasons,
stretch out slowly, ready to work.

It’s chausser les vignes’ time – turning the soil.
Trudging each row, up and down
Turning and plowing the rich earth between The Vine
Storing up strength and protection for The Branches.

Abide in me, as I abide in you.

He watches for the last leaf fall.
It’s November.
He waits.
Waits for the winter sleeping to begin. So he waits some more.
It’s December.

The long and careful and loving process of pruning begins now.
From his wooden toolbox he lifts his pruning shears.

He prunes every branch that bears no fruit.
And every branch that bears fruit,
he also prunes, to make it bear more fruit.

 Abide in me, as I abide in you.

It’s February.
It’s cold and The Vine is pruned and bare.
The Vine Grower begins ‘tirage des bois’ – removing the wood.
Gathering and burning.
Ashes to ashes.
Dust to dust.

Whoever does not abide in me
is thrown away like a branch.
Gathered and burned.

 Abide in me, as I abide in you.

The Vine awakens from his winter sleep.
Its March.
The beginning of a new growth cycle.
The sap rises in The Branches
And oozes through the scars left by The Vine Grower’s shears.

Buds swelling, first leaves, future Branches.
Flowering begins the fruiting.
April, May and June.
The Vine Grower lovingly tends each new bud, leaf and Branch.
Cupping the new growth in his old hands.

As the Vine Grower has loved me, so I love you.

Abide in that love.

 It’s hot.
The heat of July turns into the sweltering of August.
The Branches abide in The Vine and the fruit is setting.
Growing and ripening
Clustering and changing colour.

‘L’aoûtement’ – hardening off.
The Vine Grower tastes and tends
Waiting for just the right moment.

And when the time is just right,
the ancient Vine Grower prepares for harvest.

The Vine Grower is glorified by two things.
And do you know what they are?
That you bear much fruit and become his disciples.
 

The Vine Grower chose us.
The Vine Grower loves us.
Without him, we can do nothing.

ABIDE.

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  • I WONDER what “abiding” really means in this day and age?
  • I WONDER can we really “ask for whatever we wish” if we abide in him and he in us? What does that mean?
  • I WONDER what happens to us when God prunes us?
  • WHO are the characters in this story? Try unpacking them. Where do you fit in?
  • WHAT fruit are we to bear?
  • WHY did God choose you?

STORYTELLING TIPS:

Have you ever wondered how stories from so long ago can be relevant today?
Have you ever thought a story you’re learning has no modern cultural reference?
Have you ever thought, this story is from another time, another culture and doesn’t mean anything now?

Try looking for the connecting points.
In this story, I looked for something to connect the story to today and found that modern wine-making has very similar processes to those the Jesus was taking about.
Research, Google, look up, read and bury yourself in those connecting points so the story embeds itself in your soul.

 

 

EASTER DAY: John 20:1-18

1. Read

John 20:1-18 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

The Resurrection of Jesus

20 Early on the first day of the week,
while it was still dark,
Mary Magdalene came to the tomb
and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.

So she ran
and went to Simon Peter
and the other disciple,
the one whom Jesus loved,
and said to them,

“They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,
and we do not know where they have laid him.”

Then Peter and the other disciple
set out and went toward the tomb.
The two were running together,
but the other disciple outran Peter
and reached the tomb first.

He bent down to look in
and saw the linen wrappings lying there,
but he did not go in.

Then Simon Peter came,
following him,
and went into the tomb.

He saw the linen wrappings lying there,
and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head,
not lying with the linen wrappings
but rolled up in a place by itself.

Then the other disciple,
who reached the tomb first,
also went in,
and he saw and believed; 9
for as yet they did not understand the scripture,
that he must rise from the dead.

10 Then the disciples returned to their homes.

11 But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb.
As she wept,
she bent over to look into the tomb;
12 and she saw two angels in white,
sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying,
one at the head
and the other at the feet.

13 They said to her,
“Woman, why are you weeping?”
She said to them,
“They have taken away my Lord,
and I do not know where they have laid him.”

14 When she had said this,
she turned around and saw Jesus standing there,
but she did not know that it was Jesus.

15 Jesus said to her,
“Woman, why are you weeping?
Whom are you looking for?”

Supposing him to be the gardener,
she said to him,
“Sir, if you have carried him away,
tell me where you have laid him,
and I will take him away.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary!”

She turned
and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!”
(which means Teacher).

17 Jesus said to her,
“Do not hold on to me,
because I have not yet ascended to the Father.
But go to my brothers and say to them,
‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father,
to my God and your God.’”

18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples,
“I have seen the Lord”;
and she told them that he had said these things to her.

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This story was filmed in the Gallagher Chapel in Grosvenor House, Belfast Central Mission’s headquarters in Belfast.
FILM CREDIT: Danny Meegan

 

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A couple of years ago I wrote a piece called “The Advent Crack” exploring the images of a time when heaven and earth collided, humans had a glimpse into the “thin places”
and a baby was born in Bethlehem.
Yesterday, Easter Saturday, on a day of Easter waiting I wrote “The Easter Crack”.
I hope you find it helpful.

The Easter Crack

The rumbling began.
The beginning of the end of the beginning.
The culmination of the earthly life of God in human form.
Angel sentinels, tense and impatient.
Standing alert.
Ready to go.
At earthly noon
They opened the crack.
Silently winging between heaven and earth.
An inky blanket of shadowy darkness
Stretched and billowing between them.
Dropped over and settling on Golgotha and Jerusalem.
Covering the whole grisly, horrible scene.
Enveloping the characters in the story
Stopping them in their tracks.
Tick, tick, tick, one o’clock.
A loud cry coming from the depths of his being.
He can be silent no longer.
Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?
Tick, tick, tick, two o’clock.
Taunting and derision and sour wine offered.
Laboured breathing and searing pain.
Eerie silence and mindless chatter.
Tick, tick, tick, three o’clock.
Then, a final cry and a final breath.
He. Breathed. His. Last.
Exhale.
A divine soul leaving a man’s body.
And then through the “thin places”
All heaven broke loose!
Holy temple curtain ripped in two and the earth shook.
Unbreakable rocks split.
Graves opened, and saintly bodies raised!
And for those who were witnesses
All doubt is gone.
“Truly this man is God’s son”
************
Sunday dawns and the crack is still open.
Mary Magdalene, grieving
Arrives at his resting place.
But he’s not there and the stone is gone.
He hasn’t been there for some time.
He’s moved to the “thin place”.
“Why are you weeping?”
Ask the angel sentinels.
Wondering at her tears.
Eyes full of tears.
Out of focus.
She doesn’t see. She doesn’t see
What’s in front of her
What’s behind her
She turns.
Tears spilling, “Why are you weeping?”
Tears flooding, “Whom are you looking for?”
She says, “Please tell me where have you laid him?”
Then,
His voice cuts through her grief
And pierces her soul.

Just one word

One. Single. Word

That started a revolution of resurrection news.

“Mary!”

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1. Read-4

 

  • I WONDER if I had been at the cross and had the eyes to see into the “thin places”, what would I have seen that day?
  • I WONDER where there armies of angels standing guard over the cross?
  • I WONDER where God the Father and God the Spirit were? I had never thought about this before but I think they were there and went through it with God the Son. What do you think?
  • I WONDER who the saints were who were raised that day and what did they look like and who did they appear to?
  • I WONDER without our hindsight, knowing what we do about Jesus resurrection, how Jesus disciples felt when they saw there was no body in the tomb that Easter Day? And what did Mary think when she he appeared to her?
  • IF I WAS MARY, HOW would I live differently now that Jesus is alive again? What difference would it make to my life?

STORYTELLING TIPS:

Who are the characters in this story?
When I am internalising a story, even a story that is so well known, I spend time exploring the characters.
Not just what they were like but their location in the window of the story.
Where are they sitting?
Where are they standing?
Imagine a window frame or looking through the lens of a camera; what can you see and who can you see and where are they?
This is incredibly helpful when you’re telling and allows you to know where to look, side to side or up and down.
In the story of Mary at the tomb, I thought carefully about where Jesus was standing and where Mary was standing when he called her name.
Try it out!

 

3RD SUNDAY OF LENT: John 2:13-25

BLOG TITLES tell

John 2:13-25 The Message (MSG)

JESUS CLEANSES THE TEMPLE

13-14 When the Passover Feast,
celebrated each spring by the Jews,
was about to take place,
Jesus travelled up to Jerusalem.

He found the Temple
teeming with people selling cattle and sheep and doves.
The money-changers were also there in full strength.

15-17 Jesus put together a whip
out of strips of leather
and chased them out of the Temple,
stampeding the sheep and cattle,
upending the tables of the money-changers,
spilling coins left and right.

He told the dove merchants,
“Get your things out of here!
Stop turning my Father’s house into a market place!”

That’s when his disciples remembered the Scripture,
“Zeal for your house consumes me.”

18-19 But the Jews were upset.
They asked,
“What credentials can you present to justify this?”

Jesus answered,
“Tear down this Temple and in three days I’ll put it back together.”

20-22 They were indignant:
“It took forty-six years to build this Temple,
and you’re going to rebuild it in three days?”

But Jesus was talking about his body as the Temple.

Later,
after he was raised from the dead,
his disciples remembered he had said this.

They then put two and two together
and believed both what was written in Scripture
and what Jesus had said.

23-25 During the time he was in Jerusalem,
those days of the Passover Feast,
many people noticed the signs he was displaying and,
seeing they pointed straight to God,
entrusted their lives to him.

But Jesus didn’t entrust his life to them.
He knew them inside and out,
knew how untrustworthy they were.

He didn’t need any help in seeing right through them.

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anger

ANGER 1

It starts with a tiny spark

And what does the spark look like?

Something – a word, a look, a slight

or maybe nothing anyone did to you but rather

something you did or didn’t do, yourself

that lights the dormant feelings

Bubbling to a simmer

You can feel it rising

But you can’t stop it!

Read More

2nd SUNDAY before LENT: JOHN 1:1-14

BLOG TITLES

THE WORD BECAME FLESH

JOHN 1:1-14 (NRSV)

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In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.

All things came into being through him,
and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life,
and the life was the light of all people.
The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness did not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God,
whose name was John.
He came as a witness to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.

He himself was not the light,
but he came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone,
was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world came into being through him;
yet the world did not know him.

He came to what was his own,
and his own people did not accept him.

 But to all who received him,
who believed in his name,
he gave power to become children of God,
who were born,
not of blood
or of the will of the flesh
or of the will of man,
but of God.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us,
and we have seen his glory,
the glory as of a father’s only son,
full of grace and truth.

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      the word…

                    …became flesh

I went to the beginning
And it was light.
And white.
No darkness anywhere.
I heard someone singing a message.

But I didn’t understand.

“Who are you?”, I asked.
“WORD”, was the reply.

I asked, “How long have you been here?”
“Always”, WORD said.

“Who is here with you?”
“Oh, God is here with me”, WORD smiled.

“What are you then?”
“I am God”, WORD replied.

I still didn’t understand.

So, I asked, “What are you here to do?”
“I AM”, WORD said.

“Huh?”, I furrowed my brow.
I felt dumb.

WORD smiled again.
“The Message I sing, tells everyone who I AM.
God’s Love Song cannot be silent!
Singing Love and bringing Life.
I am Creator – through me all things were sung into being.
Nothing came into being without me.
I am Logos – God’s Message to humankind.
I am The Light – no darkness can overcome me.

I thought…HARD!

 If WORD was there in the beginning, then WORD was never created!
If WORD was there in the beginning, then WORD was the one who created.
If WORD was there in the beginning of all things, then WORD created ME!

“Come with me”, WORD said, “I’ll show you.”

We found ourselves in an animal shelter.
Cows, sheep and…. a newborn baby with his mother and father.
Shepherds with simple hearts and shining eyes, kneeling in the dirty hay
Praising and worshipping God the WORD in human form.

I am starting to understand.

WORD said…
“My Creation have forgotten me,
so I am singing them my Logos;
my God Song.
Coming to my people in human form: WORD made flesh.

A life-changing WORD from God the Father.
Living among you.

Bringing the True Light.
And why?

 To remind you… I LOVE YOU!

 And if you believe in me, you are my child.

A “baby WORD” if you like.
A child of God.

Full of grace and truth.”

Now I understand… I AM LOVED.

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I WONDER

I WONDER how the WORD can be with God and be God.

I WONDER what it is like in the beginning… and yes I mean ‘is’.

I WONDER all the time what it must be like to live outside time like God does.
Can your brain fathom it?

I WONDER how God’s heart must hurt when we forget God and think we know best.

WHAT words did you hear in this story that you’ve never heard before?

Learning to Tell

I always find it harder to learn a story like this one.
It is much easier to learn something that has a narrative.
A journey.
A beginning, middle and end.

But the same rules apply.
Spend time with the story, reading different versions and commentaries.
Find the common threads and words, the patterns, the links.
Then write it out the way you would say it.
And then begin.

A great starting place for Biblical Storytelling is to read this book:

STORY JOURNEY: An Invitation to the Gospel as Storytelling by Thomas E. Boomershine.

It was the first book I read on Biblical Storytelling and it changed the way I tell stories.
I’d love to hear how you get on with learning this story.
Get in touch on my CONTACT page.

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Once Upon A Story Told

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A blog for big kids (adults)
to inspire imagination through God’s story 
for sharing, devotion and worship

This little story blog is born out of two years of study in Biblical Storytelling and seventeen years of telling Biblical stories.

I’ve had a passion for story, both written and told, for my whole life. This is a new step on my journey: sharing God’s story in 4 steps and encouraging others to tell God’s story too.

I’ll be using readings from the Lectionary Year B in 4 different ways: READING the story; TELLING & HEARING the story; CREATIVELY WRITING the story: OUR RESPONSE to the story.

I’ll also be giving ideas, tips and challenges for you to start to learn and tell stories by heart as well.

Contemplating Life

A place to think, process and learn

sarah tells stories

A blog for big kids to inspire imagination through God's story

Virtual Methodist

A blog for big kids to inspire imagination through God's story

The Painted Prayerbook

Artist and author Jan Richardson explores the intersections of word, image, and faith.

The Procrastinating Word Shaker

A blog for big kids to inspire imagination through God's story

Once Upon A Story Told

A blog for big kids to inspire imagination through God's story

Contemplating Life

A place to think, process and learn

sarah tells stories

A blog for big kids to inspire imagination through God's story

Virtual Methodist

A blog for big kids to inspire imagination through God's story

The Painted Prayerbook

Artist and author Jan Richardson explores the intersections of word, image, and faith.