Polished by Story

I love that diamonds are made shiny by polishing them with, get this, diamond dust! It’s a great analogy for the way our relationships are so important to our spiritual formation. The thing is, being polished by the hardest substance in the world, even if it is just dust, can’t be comfortable. I know I’m rarely comfortable when I feel the rub, rub, rub of a truth I need to hear.

I wouldn’t technically say I am in a relationship with Donald Miller either, not even on Facebook, but this week his words have been my diamond dust.

Earlier this week I had an email from Miller’s website that offered me a free download of a message he delivered recently with the title, “Let Story Guide You.” It is all about the way God uses so much narrative in the Bible and how he intends for those stories to speak for themselves, to guide our choices and decisions. For example, and this is the one Miller uses, the story of Joseph can lead us to many conclusions about characteristics that make a person successful. The funny thing is, God never gives us Five Principles of Leadership from the Life of Joseph. You know, there is no explanation, just the story.

So, this morning I was using the flat iron on my hair and constructing the perfect conversation with a friend of mine concerning the way I was going to handle her re-entrance into my good graces since her recent moral failure. How I was going to punish her appropriately and then slowly let her be my friend again. Suddenly, a story comes to my mind.

The Prodigal son is one of my favorite parables. But you know who really gets the zinger at the end of that parable? The guy who never left. Dad is all celebrating the son who returned from his spending spree and drunken party life and the older brother is mad. Guess who gets yelled at? Not the Prodigal – he gets forgiveness and grace. The brother gets chastised because the father assumed he would understand his heart of love and compassion since he had never left. The last word of this parable is basically the father saying, “I can’t believe you don’t get this.” (Read the actual English translation here.)

I hate you Donald Miller. You and your big ideas about story!

And, thanks for the polishing today. I think I get it.

How Can I Help You?

This is Macy, my 1 year-old, helping Ada, my 4 year-old, clean the kitchen. To explain, they were using a water bottle and paper towels. I’m pretty sure they didn’t make things worse, and they were very proud of themselves.

Today our pastor gave the church a new motto: “How can I help you?” Macy gets that, even at 1. You might say she isn’t smart enough to realize that she shouldn’t enjoy helping her sister do something.

Christians are a small percentage of the general population. Despite this fact, we find more reasons to separate from each other than to join forces. What if we all tried asking each other this simple question more often. Instead of criticizing, instead of analyzing, what if we just asked, “How can I help you?”

Macy doesn’t even know exactly what she was supposed to be doing with that paper towel, she just wanted to help her sister. I think sometimes I let my inexperience or my doubts about how it is all going to work out keep me from offering to help. As usual, I’d be a better Rare Rock if I had faith like a child!

To Nurture

How does a 1 year-old girl know to love baby dolls instead of trucks? My baby, Macy Cheri, turned 1 last week and her gift was a perfectly pink baby doll. It isn’t that Macy isn’t exposed to other toys; we have a boy in the house, too. She just loves babies. It is such a reminder of the way God created women.

I realize that not all women may feel this nurturing spirit. I remember wondering if I had what it took to be a great mom. As a single person I sort of fell into such a pattern of caring for my own needs and enjoying my freedoms that I even began to wonder if I was meant to be a mother. I found out I was long before it actually happened.

I took a job as a teacher’s assistant the year I graduated from Bible College. The things I started to do in that job made me realize there was a nurturer inside of me that must have been dying to get out! I recognized it  the moment I scooped up a four year-old with a bloody mouth knowing that she was going to ruin my new shirt. I recognized it the instant I heard myself calling my students honey and sweetheart. I recognized it the day I walked out of an out-of-town shopping mall with only a bag of new books for my students in my hands. And I recognized it the night I cried watching them all sing at the right time during their music concert. I saw the nurturer in me over and over again.

There are a lot of ways to discipline the selfishness out of yourself, but having kids must be one of the most rewarding. I think a lot of single women worry that they won’t know what to do with a baby, but I’ve always found the nurturing grace ready when I need it. Just look how natural it is for Macy and hear me sing-songing, “Love the baby!”

Heaven Power

A close friend of the Steven Curtis Chapman family, Kerry Hasenbalg is keeping the unseen community of the grieving updated on important events and milestones in their life after losing Maria. As a member of the Fellowship of the Suffering, I find her words especially tender and insightful. This particular post describes bracelets the women of the family received after the memorial service. Made of gold, pearl, and clear crystals, the jewelry is a reminder of John’s vision of eternity in Revelation 21 (my favorite chapter of the Bible!). Read it – the post and the chapter in the Bible. They are both beautiful.

Grief is a crazy, unpredictable thing. In his most recent post, Jim Houser, Chapman’s manager and friend, says the family members are “gaining some ground, getting back on their feet a
bit. And yet the valley is deeper than expected. Thanks for praying.” His postings surrounding the tragedy are also powerful, but don’t read them while you are at work. I made that mistake earlier this week and had to cut out early to pick up my babies from day care because I missed them so much!

My own grief always feels heightened in the wake of someone else’s fresh experience of it. We lost our baby daughter, Ellery Blythe, more than five years ago. I hope to find a “Heaven Power” bracelet for myself and my daughters, even though the giving will probably open up more questions than I want to answer again. More questions than I want to feel again.

But if God is faithful once to comfort me in my sorrow, He will be faithful again. This kind of grief always makes me long for Heaven, which is sometimes a rare thing due to the ego-centric, short-sighted nature of my humanity. It is good to remember that this earthly place will never be able to completely satisfy. The lyrics of a Mercy Me song sum up my feelings well, “I’ve never been more homesick than now.”

Zelophehad’s Daughters

Recently I entered writer Jason Boyett’s Fake Band Name Contest. I was a finalist with this awesome fake band name: Daughters of Zelophehad. I totally, totally didn’t win, but I actually grew quite attached to my entry. You know why? Because it represents one of the greatest girl-power passages in all of Scripture! Check it out in Numbers 27.

I’ll sum up. Just before Moses died, he and Aaron were in charge of dividing up the Promised Land between all the Israelites. When they didn’t hear their names called, the daughter’s of a probably awesome guy named Zelophehad took their case to Moses.  Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get an inheritance, too! Moses took it to God and God said, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right.” They got land just like everyone else.

I forgot how much I liked the story of Zelophehad’s Daughters. I may have imagined an all-girl punk band when I entered Jason’s contest, but now I’m thinking of all the women I know who have demonstrated the same kind of faith in justice and taken action. I think I could write about them …

Bring Out the Rocks!

Wedding season is ON in our little corner of the world. Dan and I do music for a lot of weddings, and summer is always the busiest time. We love weddings. We work with the brides to choose modern worship choruses that match her expectations for each special moment in the ceremony. And we always find time to share a smile or hand squeeze as a renewal of our own commitment.

This weekend, Gloria married Paul. It was a gorgeous outdoor wedding. In this picture you can see the bride and groom following the paved drive toward the reception on the front lawn. (Look carefully and you’ll see Ada watching Gloria in awe. My girls are wedding crazy!)

There are a million things to love about a wedding, but on this Saturday one of the things I enjoyed the most was the beauty of a Rare Rock on display. Gloria is a gem of a girl by all counts. I met her when she attended the Bible College where I teach. She is a passionate person, a dancer and a singer. Now that she has graduated, she manages the floor of our young women’s recovery center. She serves often unappreciative teenagers day in and day out without notice. I don’t know her entire job description, but I know it involves a lot of thankless hours and mounds of paperwork. And, despite all of that, I’ve heard that if one of the girls asks her, she’ll sing to them as they go to sleep.

On her wedding day, Gloria was like a priceless jewel finally taken out of its safe and put on display, if only for the evening. She was radiant. After the ceremony, an uncle of the groom remarked that he had never seen a bride coming down the aisle singing, “Holy, holy, holy” on a day that was supposed to make her the center of attention. It was certainly a beautiful sight: A gorgeous woman made even more beautiful by her devotion and purity to God. Of course the groom was an emotional mess! As he should be, he had won the heart of a jewel and her beauty was on display for all the world to see that night.