New Reading

The new summer issue of Radiant magazine came in the mail yesterday. You know I love this magazine because of its real-life applications and simple presentation. The tag line for the magazine goes right along with the diamonds analogy, too: Life from the Inside Out. This new issue even includes an article by Ann Swindell called “The Price of Luxury.” The article explores the issue of conflict diamonds and how a responsible consumer can be sure he or she is not contributing to the serious problems exposed in the recent Leonardo DiCaprio movie, Blood Diamond.

Swindell does a good job of summarizing the issue and giving practical advice from a balanced perspective. She gives two options: buying only diamonds from countries that have only the highest standards in the industry or finding solutions to resolve the corruption in the poor African countries that have a reputation for exporting the most conflict diamonds. The book I’m working on (Rare Rocks) has a section tentatively titled “Controversy and Contingencies.” In contingencies I write about how every analogy has its limitations – for instance, women have the opportunity for salvation while a diamond is stuck as it is forever, flawed or perfect. In controversies I write about how the modern day controversies surrounding diamonds, conflict diamonds being the most popular issue right now, can be directly related to the controversies surrounding women.

You can read my post on how women in crisis are like conflict diamonds (A note on controversy…from October 2006), but Swindell makes an excellent point in her recent article. The answer can’t always be to simply buy diamonds from other places like Canada in an effort to avoid the controversy altogether. That could translate to leaving the people in crisis all alone just when they need help the most. Avoiding the problem won’t solve the problem.

Instead, we have to take action to see change happen even if it means getting a little dirty. A website called Treasures (www.iamatreasure.com) tells the story of a women’s ministry to strippers and exotic dancers in L.A. Would it be easier for some of us to pretend these girls don’t even exist? Sure, but that won’t reflect the love of God. The women of Treasures are making a difference because they are willing to accept the mess for the hope of salvation. Salvation is the only hope for any of us and thankfully Jesus was willing to step into our controversy to make it happen.

Transitions

It is graduation season. In the past three weeks I’ve watched my Bible College students graduate from their two-year program, my son graduate from kindergarten, and my cousin graduate from high school. I love a good ceremony and these have been no exception. I love that our American cap and gown tradition is so genuinely ours. Sure, we look a little strange in our silky robes and flattop hats, but it is a symbol of our transition from one phase of life to another. It is a time for looking back and saying “well-done” and looking ahead and saying “what next?”

Transition is a normal part of life. The famous master diamond cutter Gabi Tolkowsky shares his romantic version of a transition phase in the life of a diamond. As told by his own account, Tolkowsky, a handsome European gentleman with silver hair and coordinating mustache, says he will hold the rough diamond between his fingers and ask, “Diamond, what should you become?” And then the diamond will always reply, “I should become the most beautiful.” From there the master cutter fashions each particular diamond into the most beautiful stone it can possibly become.

That is how this season of endings and new beginnings always feels to me: what should you become? And as women our answer is inevitably, “the most beautiful!” The difficult questions are about how to accomplish that goal. Should I go on to school? Should I work or give my life to a mission field? How do I know what I should do to become my most beautiful self? In my experience, which is either long or short depending on how old you are, the answer is God, the Master of all diamond cutters. Since He created us in the beginning, He is the most qualified to direct our continuing formation.

So my most common advice to women (and men) in this transition phase is to trust God. Follow the peace that He gives and take a step of faith. The great thing is that in this Kingdom we don’t have to worry about wasted time unless we are running away like a prodigal (and even then we find forgiveness at the end of the road). In this Kingdom, the journey is as important as the destination. It may seem like it is easy to mess up, but He is much bigger than our own impatience or lack of focus. Let Him hold you between His fingers, ask you questions, and begin the process of refinement. He’s been at this a long time and He’s pretty good at what He does!
p1010005.jpg