Everyone Has a Story

August 12, 2018 by Emily Snell

Everyone has a story. This is true even for those serving time behind bars.

On Friday June 8, three staff members of The Upper Room visited the Tennessee Prison for Women to teach a workshop on writing meditations for The Upper Room daily devotional guide. This was a new way to be present and create time and space in a non-traditional setting for people to share their stories.

Workshop participants engaged with the mission and ministry of The Upper Room by practicing creative writing skills and learning how to write devotions through sharing personal stories and reflecting on scripture.

“Based on my experiences volunteering at the prison last summer, I knew the women there would be able to share beautiful stories of how they’ve seen God’s redeeming work in their lives,” said Emily Snell, publisher’s assistant and church relations specialist. “The workshop gave us a chance to introduce the women to writing as spiritual practice and allowed our team to interact with a new audience. It was really wonderful to see their interest in the magazine and to hear how the devotional stories help them make spiritual connections in their own lives.”

Personal story is one of the defining characteristics of The Upper Room. For over 85 years, The Upper Room has published personal stories, each memorable and unique. Hearing someone tell a part of his or her story is what draws readers in—it is what draws us closer to one another, and ultimately it is what draws us closer to God.

The Upper Room team left the workshop more aware of the shared human story. There are more similarities than there are differences—of how human we all are and how we all have stories of pain and joy, sorrow and hope, struggle and overcoming our obstacles. The Upper Room does the same; it unites instead of divides. It helps readers see things through the eyes of another person.

“As acquisitions editor of The Upper Room,” said Andrew Breeden, “I look for stories that introduce readers to diverse and different perspectives. It’s helpful to be able to see the world from the point of view of another person. It fosters empathy, compassion, and, hopefully, new relationships.”

By learning to see through the eyes of others, we learn to see ourselves and others through the eyes of God. The love of God is always inviting us to embrace our identity as a treasured creation and to experience renewed moments of grace. Every day, God is at work in the world, alive in scripture, present in prayer, active in each interaction. When we practice noticing God’s spirit at work around us, we begin to celebrate the abundant nature of grace.

As our workshop at the Tennessee Prison for Women will attest—along with many of the personal reflections found in the pages of The Upper Room—God’s grace is often found in the most unexpected places. 

DID YOU KNOW? The Upper Room Chaplains' Ministry has been supporting prison chaplains for fifty years by providing devotional guides for inmates. See how your gift helps people help those behind bars connect with God everyday. READ MORE

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