Friday, May 24, 2013

The Stories We Tell

The stories we tell each other matter. In a recent edition of the journal Books and Culture, Wheaton professor Alan Jacobs lamented the tendency of some to praise the value of story as truth, without clarifying that what is being narrated is more important than the narrative itself. So, what kinds of stories do we tell? Are we constantly harping on the negatives in our lives? Do our stories revolve only around us? Do they seem to go nowhere? I believe that as Christians, it is important that we tell each other about what God is doing in our lives, so those stories serve can refresh us, and help us continue on our journey of faith. Western Christianity seems to tend toward the individualistic. While this is good to a point, we need each other much more than we usually believe we do. Each person's story is part of how God is building His kingdom here and now.

As Suzanne and I have traveled from Texas to Michigan, we have heard about the ways that God has worked in the lives of our friends and have shared how He has changed us this year. Sometimes these stories involved pain, other times great pleasure. Often they were a mixture of both, a reminder of the ways that the Holy Spirit uses the hard times to mold and shape and bring forth beauty. Like most good stories, they do not follow a simple path of struggle to liberation, but include doubt and faith interwoven in a tapestry that we believe God will fully redeem when He comes again to redeem creation, and usher in the new heavens and the new earth. We have been encouraged that so many of our friends continue to walk with the Lord, even when they are not perfect. The whole point of the gospel is that we need a savior. We must be continually reminded of this.

Our stories keep us traveling. They let us know that we are not alone in our striving. They show us that in spite of what we are feeling now, hard times will not last forever. They encourage us to be aware of the ways that God is working in our lives when we may find it difficult to acknowledge it. So keep telling your stories to one another. They matter.  


Friday, May 3, 2013

The Piano Story: Grandma's Secret Music

This Roland digital piano was a mainstay for me through graduate school at Wichita State University. It had fantastic touch and sampling sounds, and was a delight to the students that came to me as well with its assortment of instruments and pop rhythms. While it was never an adequate replacement for an acoustic, it was a convenient alternative that didn't keep my grandmother, also my roommate, awake until 2:00 a.m., which was often when I put in valuable practice hours."Oh, I'm awake anyway," she would wave me off as I apologized for the noise. 

Pics taken recently to aid in selling the piano before we return to Germany.

Quite unintentionally, the piano became a window for me to glimpse her inner world. A few months after the instrument arrived in her home, I began to notice small things that were different than I had left them: the volume would be higher, a score had been moved or the bench was tucked in. Sometimes it was left on, and once I thought I heard it being closed as I opened the door. 

"Grandma, are you playing my piano?" I asked her one day. 

"Yes. I play sometimes," her eyes twinkling. 

"Would you play for me?" 

Looking down, she replied, "We'll see." 

Eleven years later, I have still never heard her play. She asked my mom and dad to come pick it up a few years ago while we were still in Germany. "I can't play it anymore," she explained sadly, "my arthritis hurts me too bad." 

Grandma this March. She takes fantastic pictures, doesn't she?

Visiting her this semester, I asked if she remembered what songs she liked to play. "Oh yes!" And she began to hum and play her fingers in the air, swaying from side to side in her chair. Even in the absence of a piano, she's still playing.