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Ouch!

me grinding

My family is a rockhounding family.  Everywhere we go, we plan to look for rocks of all types.  Four years ago, I didn’t know what most of them are, beyond quartz, but now I have a much greater level of knowledge through involvement with our local gem and mineral club.  This has been a great tool to help our family go from picking up any and every rock to being selective with what we keep. At least it helps the pile in my yard get bigger more slowly.

This past year, I have spent time learning how to polish rocks using a wet grinder and some polishing pads I bought at our club’s gem and mineral show last year. I’ve learned how to shape rocks and put a beautiful polish on them that brings out their true character and beauty.

This weekend is our annual gem and mineral show, and it has been my pleasure to be the one doing rock polishing demonstrations.  I’ve been able to meet many people and polish rocks for customers and vendors alike!  It’s hard to believe that four years ago, my family didn’t know beans about rocks.

When I polish a rock, I want to expose what’s underneath, so that the true beauty of the rock can be shown.  The finished product will shine and turn a ho-hum rock into something of value.  Often, however, I must shape a rock to get it to where it will accept a polish.  To do this, I have to use the grinding wheel.  The grinding wheel takes off the jagged, rough parts that do not allow for polishing.  It removes the uneven surfaces to present a face more acceptable to the upcoming transformation.  But the grinding wheel doesn’t polish.  In fact, the end result after the grinding wheel leaves a surface full of scratches and scars that must be sanded away.

After the surface is level or nearly so, and polishing can begin, I start with a 50 grit sandpaper to get rid of the scratches made by the grinding wheel and finish shaping the surface.  After this wheel, I progress through a set of wheels until I finish with a 3000 grit diamond wheel.  I could go further to higher grit, but I don’t currently have the tools to do so.  For my purposes, 3000 grit is fine.

After the grinding wheel, each of the polishing grits must be used with water.  Water is the lubricant that keeps the rock from overheating and fracturing from the friction of the pad.

Why tell you all this?  Because I sometimes feel like that rock.  God wants to reveal his purposes in me and transform me back into the person he intended when he created me, but I’m so stubborn, and I’ve done things that have created rough edges and deep gouges and a self that looks much different than the masterpiece God sees in me.

So he works to remove all those things that hide his masterpiece.  Sometimes his ways are tough to handle.  I can’t imagine what a rock would feel at the grinding wheel if it had feelings, but I know how I feel when a rigid part of me gets demolished by a circumstance God allowed me to endure. Sometimes he is putting finishing touches on an area in my life, and his ways are sweet to my soul because I welcome the change.

But all of that change begins with water.  Baptism is like the lubricant that begins the process of transformation, and celebration of the Lord’s Supper continues that lubrication for our souls as we renew our covenant with God each time we partake.

How’s your life?  Are you still a ho-hum rock? Or are you allowing God to work in you to reveal the masterpiece he created in your mother’s womb?


Cowboys and Christians

John-Wayne-Cowboy-Poster

I bet you’ve never heard ole Marshall Dillon say
Miss Kitty have you ever thought of running away
Settling down will you marry me
If I asked you twice and begged you pretty please
She’d of said, “Yes in a New York minute”
They never tied the knot
His heart wasn’t in it
Stole a kiss as he rode away
He never hung his hat up at Kitty’s place

(From “Should’ve Been a Cowboy” by Toby Keith)

Do you like old westerns? Growing up, I always thought my grandpa was just like John Wayne, and he looked like him too.  We love it when the loner rides into town, cleans up the mess, and leaves like he came – independent and alone.

We like other kinds of hero movies for similar reasons.  When the hero, against all odds, saves the day without the help of anyone else, we cheer! There are no stereotypical heroes. Men, women, children, dogs. We root for the underdog and love to see him or her win.

They are the savior of the moment. They didn’t need anyone.  Everyone needed them.

We have adopted quite a liking to this loner mentality.  Our culture today is as individualistic as it has ever been.  We know more about our friends than ever through social media, but we are statistically more lonely and depressed than ever.  We pride ourselves on our independence and ability to pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Even the “American dream” encourages this idealism that pits a person or family against the world to succeed in wealth, prestige and power.

But is individualism best?

My own personal savior, Jesus Christ.

The individualistic ideal of today that is standard thinking for many in America is foreign to so many others around the world, and it is a relatively new concept associated with the rise of industrialism, capitalism, and urbanization.

In days gone by, a family would need the entire community to survive.  Older generations weren’t carted off to homes for senior care.  They were incorporated into the everyday life of the family.  The nuclear family wasn’t separate from the collective.  People didn’t seek to be alone.

When you read the scriptures through the lens of individualism, then it would seem fitting that Jesus is our own personal savior. One for each of us.  But Jesus didn’t just come to die for you alone.  His plan was for the world.  The language of the scriptures isn’t that of individualism; it exudes collectivism.

Yet, when we read stories like the gathering of the first church in Acts 2, we immediately think of terms like socialism or communism or utopian societies or cults.  They thought of community.  They were using what they were blessed with to help those they considered family.  To seek independent wealth would be to show disdain for the collective need.

This collectivist mindset was the norm for those in the Middle East in the first century.  Yet, today, we are far removed from such thinking.  If we could refocus to see the collective view, the scriptures would open up to us in new ways, the church would mobilize again to look like she began, and we would find new purpose in our faith in Jesus.

When you read the word “you” in the New Testament, more often than not the word is plural – speaking to the whole church – not just the individual reading.

As it is, our individualistic mindsets convince us to hoard our wealth and give leftover to the church. We hide in buildings to see one another once a week or less, and we convince ourselves that we can seek this personal relationship with Jesus without attending services with other hypocritical Christians.

These ideas are entirely foreign to the church of the New Testament – the church of Jesus.

Jesus is your savior, but he’s the savior of the whole world, and you’re a part of it.  He’s the savior of the church, and you’re a part of it.  YOU (singular) aren’t the church.  WE (collectively) are the church.


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