WORSHIP with Laura Story
GRAMMY award-winning artist Laura Story was launched into the spotlight when her single “Blessings” spent 28 consecutive weeks as the No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Contemporary Christian chart in 2011. The song was inspired by her husband Martin’s diagnosis with a brain tumor, and it resonated with an audience that admired her candidness about adversity. Martin had survived treatment and surgery—but not without significant damage to his brain. What Story thought would be a detour in her husband’s health ended up the “new normal.”
Preparing to release a new album on March 3 and perform in Birmingham at Shades Mountain Baptist Church on March 9, Story celebrates the milestones she once wasn’t sure her family would reach 6 years ago. While still impacted by vision problems, short-term memory loss and a suppressed immune system, husband Martin has been able to work part time as a baseball coach. The couple also has three children—a four-year-old daughter and twin two-year-old sons. The Senior Worship Leader at Perimeter Church in Atlanta since 2005, Story says strong relationships in the church and the pursuit of a deeper understanding of worship have strengthened her as a mother, a wife and a songwriter in recent years.
“I was just with a group looking at Psalms 73, which talks about as believers the perspective change we experience as we come into the presence of God. And not just the presence of God—it talks about the sanctuary of God, referring more to corporate worship,” she says. “It’s a perspective change that happens when we meet in God’s presence with God’s people. That has been a lifesaver for me because when I do have those low moments, [I know] that if I belong to the Lord then I’m not walking through this alone. I have both His presence guiding me and comforting me as well as His people surrounding me and pointing me toward Him.”
Story published a detailed account of finding deeper intimacy with Jesus amidst her fight for her husband’s health in the book When God Doesn’t Fix It in 2015, and last year she began classes for a doctorate degree in worship at The Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies. Focusing on how God’s people have worshipped Him throughout the ages and what God’s Word says about how He should be worshipped today, Story says what she is learning is helping her grow in her ability to coach her younger fans on being intentional about how they come together before the Lord. “The Lord continues to open up doors for me to be equipping this next generation. I don’t want to tell [them] this is how you worship, because I feel like God’s doing a new thing there,” she says, “but I do think there are good biblical principles I can instill in these young’uns then step back and see what God might do through them.”
Biblical principles of worship, Story explains, include prizing the reverence of God and making sure a worship service becomes a meeting place between God and His people, “where they get to hear the voice of God through the sermon, through the truths, and then they get to respond to Him through prayer and song and celebrate the things that He’s done.” She calls leading worship a “weighty responsibility,” a job not to be taken lightly or handed off to any person with musical inclinations.
At home, Story says teaching her children truths about God’s presence and expectations has been a blessing of its own. “As much as we strive to be good parents, we [will] fail, but [we point] them to the God who never will fail,” she says. “That’s what my parents did for me, and that’s what I’m trying to do for my kids.” Besides giving her children chances to catch her living out her faith or reading her Bible, Story makes home an atmosphere of grace and repentance. “I think about a time I lost my patience: my daughter was being unbelievably disobedient, and I totally lashed out at her. I went to her and said I need to ask for your forgiveness. I yelled at you, and I want to be more patient. Now it’s your turn. So she apologized to me for being disrespectful, and I said let’s pray together and ask God to make both of us more patient and more respectful.” Story admits, “It’s kind of a new concept for me–parenting like that–but gosh there’s so much about parenting that I’m learning, and more than anything I am just staying on my knees asking Him to show me the mom He wants me to be.”
Story’s new album, Open Hands, is a product of seeing worship not just as the words she sings but the very posture of her heart. “True worship is more than adoration; it’s coming before a faithful, trustworthy Father with open hands. Whatever comes, let me not respond with clenched fists as if I know best. It’s not just saying, ‘Hey you’re great God,’ but saying, ‘Because you are great, I want to give my life to you. Because you are trustworthy, I’m going to trust you with this hard thing.’ We buy into that myth that greater peace comes when we have greater control. But the Bible actually teaches that greater peace comes when we get to a point of letting go.”
–Camille Smith Platt