Monday, May 22, 2017

Rescue me

I was never a good swimmer.  But when I was invited to a friend’s pool party, I begged my mom to go.  The pool looked mammoth to me and all I needed to know was which side was the shallow side.  The safe side. So that’s where I parked myself.  But after a while, I noticed I was the only one at that end of the pool.  The other girls were experienced swimmers and were bouncing around in the deep end.

Longing to fit in as much as possible, I was determined to somehow get to the other side. I carefully navigated my way across  by tip toeing on a narrow ledge along the perimeter of the pool.  I used it to make the journey over to the deep end, and I felt pretty satisfied for making it there successfully.  Then my foot slipped.  I felt my body slowly drift just far enough from the edge of the pool where the security of the ledge disappeared.  Suddenly, I had nothing to hold on to that would keep me safely attached to the edge of the pool.  I tried hard to keep my head above the water, but I felt myself panic and I began sinking.  There was nothing I could do, and there was nothing to keep me from going down.

One of my arms was above the water line, and suddenly I felt someone grab hold of it.  A girl, who was walking along the deck, grabbed my hand and pulled me towards the edge of the pool.  I was able to inhale and tried to remain composed.  Completely shaken and scared, I reflected on what had just happened.  I was filled with thanks as I quickly exited the pool.  Whoever that girl was, she rescued me.

How often do we hear the word rescue?  Maybe not that often, but when we do, we pay attention.  We like stories about rescue.  There is joy and hope in rescue, and often there is a hero in the story.  Recently, I was challenged to think of rescue in my life.  The challenge?  How do I apply rescue in my life as I interact with others?  By that I mean, how do I carry out Jesus’ mission and purpose by being his hands and feet?  By rescuing others with love, compassion and care?  How do I care?  Do I care?  Do I care for those different from myself?  For those who are bruised and broken?

I asked God to show me how to rescue, but as the days passed and the idea of rescue began to take shape in my thoughts, I didn’t know how to make it happen.  All I knew was that I felt convicted and wondered how God could use me in my small world.  My very small world.  I don’t have a big circle, but God does.  Rescue.  What could that look like?

Then it hit me.  Before I could ever be used by God, I would need him to rescue ME.  To rescue me from my “safe” life.  The part of my life that is comfortable and simple.  From the side that doesn’t have the courage to think like Jesus.  The side of me that retreats from what is going on outside my circle, because it’s just hard to think outside that space.  How could I possibly “rescue” if I was just hanging out in a place that feels safe?

And so, in my prayers, I ask God for wisdom and understanding.  I seek intimacy with Christ so that I can be rescued from myself.  I seek a relationship that is real. Make it real.  Make it real, Lord so that I can be real.  So that I can be used to rescue.  Maybe I’ll be the one who notices someone in distress and is able to grab their hand and bring them to a place where they can see the face of God.  A place where reflection can take place and where a deep breath of his grace and mercy can be taken.

Recently, my friend Ann shared this scripture with me...(thank you, Ann!)

John 14:4-12
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.  There is more than enough room in my Father’s home.  If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?   When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.  And you know the way to where I am going.”

“No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.  If you had really known me, you would know who my Father is. From now on, you do know him and have seen him!”

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.”

Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?  Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me.  Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.  You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father.  Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

A Living Prayer

To be seen by God

“Do I believe in God?  Yes!  When I am at work I feel like I am assisted by someone who leads me to do things that are greater than myself, greater than what I have done before.”  Henri Matisse

Close to the end of his artistic career, Matisse embarked on creating “The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence” (Chapel of the Rosary), a chapel in France.  He considered it the most significant work of his career, and perhaps one could say that something outside himself caused him to create this masterpiece.  As I read his thoughts, I am certain there was something more to why he created art of any kind.

On the outside, his long-standing friendship with Monique Bourgeois, who he met as a young nurse, engaged and motivated him to take on this work.  Their friendship developed over time and lasted for years.  They remained friends as she became a Dominican nun, and his work took on life and breath when he began designing the chapel.  But was it more than this friendship that moved him? 

He wasn’t spiritual in the least, and when challenged by his peers about the project, he said, “Doing this is essentially a work of art.  I don’t know whether or not I am a believer, the essential is to work in a state of mind that is close to prayer.”  He went against the tide to create his masterpiece and he was true to himself in the process.

As an artist, there is something that drives me to create.  Recently, a gentle whisper in my heart made me take pause.  The simple, yet profound, words, “To be seen by God, and not by man.  To love like God, and not like man,” rocked my world.  There is something inside me that wants to be seen, yet not.  It’s a definite tug-of-war, and learning how to lose is actually understanding that you really win.

When I started working with Denise, my art coach, the first question she asked me was, why do I create art?  My answer seemed dramatic, but I spilled it out anyway.  I simply told her that If I did not create, I would feel as though I'd die.  At that moment, the process of discovery and learning began.

The journey took me past fear, which is the most troubling aspect of being an artist.  Once I was able to understand this, creating for myself and more so for something other than myself, for the Glory of God, put me in a different frame of mind.  I may be simplifying it a bit, but I think you get the idea.

My art is simply a form of prayer.  As I wrap my head and heart around this, I move into a different arena.  It is here that I long to be seen by God, and not man.  It is a place of communion, and where an exchange takes place.  It is where I can share my prayer with the world, and the size of the world doesn’t matter.  I pour out what HE pours in, all to be blessing to God, to receive a blessing and to bless others.

So, my question for you is, what is your form of prayer?  What has God placed in you that when you communicate it to the world, it is an offering and a pouring out of a blessing unto HIM, unto your heart and unto others?

The chapel Matisse built, was designed with intricate details that were thought out specifically, so that each person entering it would be deeply affected by the beauty it offered.  His design was personal, powerful, and beautiful.  A display that even today connects people to God.

Our gifts are the same.  They are personal, powerful and beautiful.  During this season of lent, let your gift be poured out as a prayer, for all to see.  But most of all, to be seen by God.

God’s various gifts are handed out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various ministries are carried out everywhere; but they all originate in God’s Spirit. God’s various expressions of power are in action everywhere; but God himself is behind it all. Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people!
1 Corinthians 12:4-11The Message (MSG)

The Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence

Friday, March 3, 2017

Facing the Elements

My husband has a knack for finding used exotic cars.  Head turning cars priced to where the average Joe can afford them.  And he’s done this a few times.  One of those cars was a beautiful Jaguar.  It was luxury beyond what I’ve ever sat in and we enjoyed that car for many years.  He appreciated it because of its fine qualities and features.  Everything about that car was top notch, inside and out.  He knew every aspect of the car and meticulously cared for it, especially its signature British Racing Green paint job.  Over time, the elements started to invade the paint and caused it to breakdown and fail.  It began to fade and discolor in areas and the luster of the paint was completely missing in many spots.  The only thing that would truly help “fix” the erosion was a restoration.  The car really wasn’t worth putting that kind of money into it.  Reluctantly, he sold it. 

We can be affected by so many things in our lives.  We are a one of a kind creation that comes into the world ready to shine.  Along the way, though, the elements take their toll on us.  Words, people, emotions we feel, experiences we encounter.  The list goes on and on.  All these things affect us, affect the brilliance of who we are.   Some of us are resilient and can weather out so much of the things that come against us.  Thankfully, our creator-designer, God knows everything about us.  He knows how to care for us, meticulously.  And instead of giving up on us, He has made a way for us to be restored.  To have a way for our luster to shine again.  That restoration comes through his son, Jesus.  Through Christ we can bring those parts of our lives that have been dulled by what the world throws our way.  Through Christ we can have joy and we can walk with our heads held high.  Through Christ, we can fully know our identity.  It is in this restoration and realization that we can share the hope we have found.  To pour kindness and compassion on others.  Maybe we can have a hand in helping others find their luster by pointing them to the one who created the world.  The one we call Love.

And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.  2 Corinthians 5:18

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Tailor Made

I had a personal tailor growing up.  Sounds a bit posh, doesn't it?  But I really did.  My father was a tailor (always will be a tailor), and of course the best tailor around.  All my life, he took care of my alterations with expert care. He knew how I was built. One arm just a tiny bit longer than the other, one hip a little off, and an ever fluctuating waistline. He altered my clothes perfectly and instinctively.

Over the past few years though, his eyesight has dimmed and he can't tailor the way he could when his vision was sharp.  I remember shopping with confidence knowing he could fix anything that didn't fit me quite right. So, I wouldn't hesitate to buy things that needed altering. I knew he would be ready and willing to make the necessary changes to my clothes, transforming them to fit my crooked body.   

This is my sewing machine.  It belonged to my dad.
Now a days, I know I can't run to my dad to make alterations for me. 
I miss being able to go to him to customize the fit of my clothes. I am sure I could find someone I trust, but having my dad alter my clothing has been a lifelong event, a special "thing". A thing I just don't feel I can hand over to someone else. He could look at a garment and know exactly how to work with it. For me,he took what looked impossible to the possible. He would examine something I bought and could tell if he could work with it.  I had one hundred percent assurance that when he would be done with it, it would be perfect.

Just as my dad has been my personal tailor all my life, I think of Jesus as my spiritual tailor. There have been many things I've taken on that don't fit me so well.  Things like anger, judgment, self-pity, doubt. Shall I go on?  Things that only HE could turn into something better and "perfect". Jesus takes those things that don't look good on us and transforms them into something more. Something beautiful.  I recently heard a discussion about how we often think we are not enough. Not pretty enough, skinny enough, good enough, etc.  Can we just stop this thinking?  Can we remember that we can take those thoughts to Christ? These thoughts need alterations!  It is in those moments, that we must remember that we can go to Jesus with confidence.  He stands in the gap, fills it, and makes us enough.  He applies his TRUTH to our lives! He is the one that takes a poor fit (a lie we believe) and alters it.

My dad took something that didn't fit me and changed it into something flattering. He could transform a garment so that it looked like it was custom made just for me.  What are you wearing these days that doesn't fit right?  Go to Christ with confidence. He will alter whatever it is and will change it into something that designed to fit you perfectly.  

I will go before you and make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord, who call you by your name,am the God of Israel... Isaiah 45:2-3

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Making the most of my messes

The painting was really sad. It was supposed to depict a cluster of grapes, but it looked like a diseased raspberry instead. I’m talking about an experience at one of those painting parties, where you follow the instructions of a talented teacher and your great hope is that yours will look as good as hers. Oh, and did I mention they served wine at this party?  I think it was supposed to help?  Hmmm, not so much. I am not being hard on myself. I am being a realistic critic, and my completed painting really was a mess.  I took it home and tucked it in a corner where I would not see it.  Face down, out of sight, out of mind.  

Not too long ago, when I was cleaning my space, I came across it and I cringed.  Instead of putting it away again, I did the next best thing.  I painted right over it.  Yep, covered up the evidence, covered up the mess. I felt relief. Not a single grape existed anywhere on that canvas.  With a few quick brush strokes I had a “new” canvas that I could use for something better and more beautiful!  Something worth looking at.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could cover some of the messes that I’ve “painted” in my life?  The messes that I made because of bad decisions, selfishness, shame or whatever… (it’s a long list). If only those messes could be covered and made new with a big, broad brush stroke, leaving no evidence of the unpleasantness. If only.   

God’s word says this is possible. In the story of the prodigal son, a father grants his son’s demands for his inheritance.  You may be familiar with the story.  The son leaves his father’s home and squanders all of his inheritance.  At his lowest point, he realizes the mess he’s made of his life, and decides to go back to his father’s home.  He wonders if perhaps his father might take him back as a lowly servant.  Humility has caused a pivotal change in the son's heart, and so he makes his way back home. The father, seeing his son from a distance, is filled with love and compassion.  He runs towards his son with arms wide open.  So open, that he instructed his servants to prepare a party to celebrate his homecoming! 

This is a picture of how God reacts to us when we realize our mess is too much to handle.  When we approach HIM, he is ready to welcome us, receive us, forgive us and transform us.  Yes, He wipes our canvas clean. We can go to him with humility.  We can go with our mess. He is there.   

What kind of mess have you tried to cover up on your own?  Why not give it to him so he can make something new, something beautiful out of it. You will not be disappointed. You will find great joy in knowing your Father in Heaven has been waiting for you all along.

But I wipe away your sins because of who I am.  And so, I will forget the wrongs you have done.  Isaiah 43:25

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.  Romans 4:7-8

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  Lamentations 3:22-23

Monday, December 21, 2015

I almost missed it

It was the end of the day and I had one more stop to make before heading home.  I was tired, but then I noticed the sky.  It caught my eye and it was a captivating view.  A rare display of clouds like I had not seen before.  Clouds held together by ribbons of pink shadows.  Stunning.  I parked my car and went into auto-pilot mode, making a fast trek to the grocery store entrance.  Then I stopped.  Something was tugging at me.  I turned around to absorb the view.  But that still wasn't enough, so I walked to the far end of the parking lot and stood in amazement.  I was in awe.  What tugged at my heart?  What called to me so loudly that it made me want to stop and take it all in? 

The Bible talks about how we yearn for God.  How our heart seeks him.  It is not a coincidence that we find connection to him in his creation, or as I call it, his canvas.  So, I took in a breath, and took in the awesome view.

And here we are.  It’s Christmas and I am wondering if you might be in auto-pilot mode.  Will you stop?  Can you stop?  Just for a moment to be in awe.  In awe of what this season is all about.  It’s about God, wanting to be with you, with me, with all of us.  So much that he took on the form of a human being so that he could be with us...we could be with HIM.  Stop for a moment.  Take HIM in.  It’s not about the running around and the craziness of the world.  It’s about HIM.  Rest and be in awe.

How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord Almighty!  My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.  (Psalm 84:1-2)

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.  They have no speech, they use no words; no sound is heard from them.  Yet their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.  In the heavens God has pitched a tent for the sun. It is like a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, like a champion rejoicing to run his course.  It rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other; nothing is deprived of its warmth… (Psalm 19:1-6)

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n and nature sing,
And heav’n, and heav’n, and nature sing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

When I said yes

When I said yes to God, I had no idea of the path it would take me on.  My heart and the broken places inside of me were a mess, yet I found hope in God and I was “all in.”   I found a God that offered a way through truth.  Truth that I was truly forgiven and fully loved.  Thirty years ago, I said yes, and looking back on the path, I see the inclines that have given me spiritual muscle.  I’ve seen grace and miracles come through pain, growth, beauty and love.  

These days, though, I’m tired.  Because I often think that after all this time, I’d have some kind rest, maybe a little coasting.  But just like the physical body, if we stop working it, using it, we die.  Atrophy sets in.  Spiritually, I sometimes feel atrophied.  My spiritual laziness makes me feel even dead at times.  It is a place so easy to get to.  I rest on my own “goodness,” whatever that is.  And that’s the beginning of a new path that takes me absolutely nowhere.  

Today.  Now.  I say yes again.  And it may just be the most important yes I say.  It’s a yes I will say each morning so that God can take me out of my “goodness” and back into my brokenness.  The place I started.  It is the place that makes the journey beautiful, painful, and meaningful.  It is the place that builds spiritual muscle.  

When did you say yes?

The LORD'S loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning;  Great is Your faithfulness. "The LORD is my portion," says my soul, "Therefore I have hope in Him."Lamentations 3:22-24

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Naomi's Story - Blessed Assurance

I’ve never met anyone who acts like a child more than Naomi.  I know that sounds like a dig, but it really isn’t.  She is a child before her creator, God and just like a child, Naomi talks to God.  A lot.  It’s a side of her I’ve admired from the moment I met her.  She innocently and faithfully talks to God, just like a kid talks to their dad.  She is honest and real with HIM and it was during a challenging day that she began to pray openly with her child-like heart.  The conversation took place as she was driving in her car.   It was a dreary, overcast day, but now and then the sun would tease and peek through the gray sky.

Naomi is in transition.  She is planning to move to Texas and wonders about the move.  Specifically, she wonders about God and asks questions.  Where was HE in this leg of her journey?  She had been seeking HIS reassurance, but she wasn't hearing that still small voice she was familiar with.  So, she decided to pray that day while in her car.  She wanted God at the center of everything and told HIM so.  Could he please just show himself to her?  Just a word, anything.   Suddenly, in that moment, the sun came out.  It wasn’t an ordinary appearance, though.  It seemed to permeate her car as well as her heart.  It went right into her soul.  She completely felt HIS presence and it was an obvious answer to her childlike pleas. 

The sun looked soft and sweet, and it disappeared back into the clouds almost like a drape being slowly drawn away.  It left behind, though, feelings and emotions almost too deep to put into words.  She felt overwhelmed.  It was clear God's Spirit was present with her.  She felt HIS peace, joy, and love in her body.  At that moment, she wished she could somehow capture the memory forever.

The following morning, after her quiet time, she reflected on the experience and decided to call me.   She shared what happened to her and also told me how the song, Blessed Assurance ran through her head as a result of her experience.  She asked if there might be a way to express her experience through my art.  This is my interpretation of Naomi’s experience, which I call, Blessed Assurance.  

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Tony's Story

Lung cancer.  That was Tony’s diagnosis.  For Tony, this was just one small story on his journey.  He has many stories that reveal God’s faithfulness in ways impossible to explain on a human or earthly level.  On this leg of his journey, the lung cancer was just a minor detail.

Tony already took action by placing his trust in God’s hands.  He had faithful believers holding him up in prayer and from one unlikely circumstance to another, the way was made for Tony to receive treatment for his cancer at Mayo Clinic.  That in itself was not too extraordinary.  What was extraordinary was how the timing of his treatment hurdled over the usual timeline for cases like his.

Through this “unusual” timing, Tony was able to receive attention and care for his cancer.  Part of his treatment was a special type of radiation that made him feel quite afraid.   Even though there were doctors in the room, he felt alone.   As he lay still in the machine that would administer his treatment, he told the Lord how afraid he actually was.

He turned his head and clearly present with him at that moment, was Jesus.  The assurance he felt right then was overwhelming.  What added to that sense of assurance were the hundreds of faces he saw behind Jesus.  Tony remembered how many prayer lists he was on, and the faces were a vision of all those praying for him.  He was truly covered in prayer.

Joshua 1:9 is the scripture that Tony thought of that expressed his faith through this situation.

“…The Lord your God will be with you wherever you go…”

This is my interpretation of Tony's vision, created through mixed media collage...