On lapidary and artists: The story behind the theme of Then Sings My Soul

I think one of God’s favorite things to do is to make and shape people. Of course I can’t speak for Him, but the works of God’s hands are mentioned not infrequently throughout the Bible, how God sculpts the land and the heart, and how He creates artists, too.

Moses talks about an artisan named Bezalel who may have been one of the earliest lapidarists.  Exodus 31:5 (NLT) reads, “[Bezalel] is skilled in engraving and mounting gemstones and in carving wood. He is a master at every craft!”

And in Isaiah 64:8 (NLT) we read, “And yet, O LORD, you are our Father. We are the clay, and you are the potter. We all are formed by your hand.”

Jakob, the main protagonist in Then Sings My Soul, is a lapidarist–one who works with and fashions stones and gems. Jakob’s father (Josef) was a lapidarist, too.

This is a piece of raw aquamarine, the sort of stone Josef  would have worked with and passed on to Jakob in the story.

I used the trade and theme of lapidary in this novel because my grandfather was a lapidarist, too. In fact, he actually made the stone on the cover of the novel, and you can read more about that providential story in the afterwords in the back of the novel.

As a special treat for you today, here are the actual diagrams and notes my grandfather used to make this stone:

When you read Then Sings My Soul, I think you’ll discover why the theme of lapidary lends itself so well to Jakob and his daughter, Nel. They both start out pretty rough, living in ways not everyone would approve of. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t see the beauty He knows they can become.

The same story can be yours, friend. If you feel dirty and rough, unnoticed, worthless…God sees the new and clean, the priceless and sparkling person He is making you to be.

The work a lapidarist does on a stone is harsh at times. There are cuts and chisels, chunks hacked off and angles shorn. But in the eye of the Lapidarist, all these steps are necessary.

More than that, as He works, the Lapidarist holds you in His hand and never lets go.

What about you? 

Do you have places in your life that need polished? 

Do you wonder where God is in the midst of your journey?

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mourning dove. a poem for the martyrs.

your cry cut through the empty
black morning, shuffling on
into another long day of wondering where
in the world is the hope?
surely even you had pounded your weary
wings against the hard cold, fleeing
from winter. but just when I wasn’t listening
i heard your lonely keen
a refrain I hardly realized I’d yearned for
until i heard you singing
again

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“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:38-39 ESV

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*dedicated to the Coptic Christians and martyrs everywhere, and that each of us would be so brave when our time to stand for The Cross Draws nigh*

Modeh Ani. Good morning, indeed.

Each morning–early in the morning–I drive my son to his cross country practices.

And each morning, I’m tempted to go home and go back to bed until his run is finished.

Instead, through what can only be described as supernatural grace, I walk while he and his teammates run.

I walk, as the sun rises over the trails and cornfields and wildflowers.

I walk, as I grumble about the little things in life (like the unexpected failure and subsequent purchase of an entire AC system when it’s 100 degrees in the shade) and wonder where God is.

I walk, as I think about the patients I care for as a nurse, the ones who have bellies being drained from the effects of cancer; the ones whose caregivers sit at the bedside and feed them applesauce when a month before they could handle a nice slab of prime rib; the ones who love it when I wash their hair, massaging their balding heads no one else has touched for weeks.

I walk, as I consider the life-changing week my sons spent caring for “the least of these” on the streets of Chicago, returning to us as young men, hearts on fire for the Kingdom. Hearts bonded with new friends. Hearts bonded with the broken and the Lord.

Here are a few pictures I’ve taken on my walks this week as I consider all these things, blessings, curve balls, love so deep and other-worldly it hurts. And I recite, as my Jewish ancestors* and Jewish brothers and sisters do still today–before they even rise from their beds–the morning Modeh Ani. A prayer to begin the day.

May you acknowledge and feel the merciful restoration of your soul, and the faithfulness of our Great G-d, today, too, dear friends!

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מוֹדֶה (מוֹדָה) אֲנִי לְפָנֶֽיךָ מֶֽלֶךְ חַי וְקַיָּים. שֶׁהֶֽחֱזַֽרְתָּ בִּי נִשְׁמָתִי בְחֶמְלָה. רַבָּה אֱמֽוּנָתֶֽךָ׃

Modeh (modah) ani lifanekha melekh ḥai v’kayam sheheḥezarta bi nishmahti b’ḥemlah, rabah emunatekha.

I offer thanks before you, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.

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*Through extensive research I’ve been doing for my second novel (David C. Cook, 2015), I recently discovered that my Grandfather was 100% Jewish, which means I am 1/4 Jewish. My knees are buckled with honor at this truly life-changing discovery.