When God Speaks Through His Word and Our Art

The bold black ink on white canvas caught my eye.  As I walked under the shaded outdoor patio of Elevate coffee, I noticed a girl tracing the penciled words with a thin brush; “Wow, that’s beautiful,” I said.  I took a closer look; the canvas read, “For I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”.

“Can I take a picture of it?” I asked.IMG_0644

She said yes and I clarified, “I’d like to show it to my husband.”  The phrase sounded pleasant though unfamiliar and I smiled.  I stretched out my hand and introduced myself.  My new friend’s name is Jasmin.  I promised her I would return to see the finished product.

God has done this before.  Once before Asa and I started dating, I was looking at his pottery on the shelves at Desert Dragon.  He had carved around his vessel the words: “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”  The Lord had been speaking these words same words to my heart.  He was using them to make me desire holiness and freedom from sin.  Now, Asa and I had barely talked at this point.  In fact, I had seen him throw and had not appreciated his work.  It wasn’t until I saw his carved pottery that I realized how talented he is.  A couple days later, I apologized to him, “I’m sorry, but I totally underestimated you,” I said.  He smiled and proceeded to win my heart and marry me months later.

But the point of my story is that God speaks to us often through His Word and moreover, through art, which I love.  When I saw Jasmin’s canvas, I saw God’s faithfulness.  I know I can trust him.  Despite the fact that, last night, my husband and I talked about silence, uncertainty and money, I know I cannot falter in my heart when it comes to God.  Because he told me, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me”.  He reminded me of his Word last night.  And then, there it was today in black and white: “I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content”.

Inside of elevate, I found a friend from the ceramics studio.   “I just saw Asa last night at the studio!”  Heather hugged me and congratulated us.  We sat on the couches near the window.  On the other side friend continued working on her lettered canvas.  I felt in my heart something/someone say, “That canvas is yours.”  I continued to share pictures from the wedding.  My friend and I chatted for a while until I finished my Mocha Frappuccino and she needed to leave to pick up her kids from school.

I returned to my new friend Jasmin on the other side of the glass.  She was sitting with her finished canvas and her boyfriend, Washington.  I asked her why she picked that verse in particular.  “Sometimes God speaks a verse into my heart for that particular season of my life.  This is a time of transition for me and I felt like this verse spoke to that.”

“I love it,” I said.

Washington handed me the canvas, “It’s yours.”

Dear Lord Jesus, I always underestimate you.  I pray you continue to show me your faithfulness through your people, your Word and our art.  Thank you because you are not silent.  Give me ears to hear and eyes to see.  In your name, Jesus, Amen.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.  I know how to be brought low and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.  I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13IMG_0648

Advertisements

Blueprints: on Christ, Carpenters and our Fathers

 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything.
Hebrews 3:4

IMG_20131223_102306
“The priest talked about José,” says my dad, “and about the Angel who told him he was more than just a carpenter.”

It no wonder why it’s this part of the message that sticks to my father’s mind.  He’s been in the business of building since he came to the United States from Mexico years ago.  My dad’s hands are rough like sandpaper and tough as nails.  Hard-work gives his life purpose.  Our house is always under construction.  I can imagine Joseph being the same sort of man, one eager to build a perfect home for his family.

Joseph must have had the hopeful blueprints etched in his heart.  A beautiful wife, a steady job, a couple of kids.  But all of his plans for the home he wanted to build are destroyed with the notice of Mary’s pregnancy and the knowledge that the child is not his.  Disheartened, Joseph is forced to end his relationship with Mary quietly.  So much for the perfect bride. So much for the perfect home he had in mind.  So much for his purpose.

Yet, suddenly, the Lord sends a dream, an Angel who tells him he is more than just a carpenter.  To be exact, the Angel says the following:

“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:20-1).”

Here God presents a new blueprint: a plan for salvation.  This the bigger picture that fills Joseph’s life with purpose and meaning.

I love my father and I respect his desire to build a perfect home for the family he loves.  But I know that just like with Joseph God’s desire is to fill my father with a deeper purpose.  He is much more than a father, than a husband, than a carpenter. He is invited to participate God’s larger plan for salvation.  We all are.  And just like Joseph we simply need to accept God’s invitation.

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

Three verses to meditate (click link to view in context):

1. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).”

2. “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth (Exodus 9:16).”

3. (This verse never grows old.  Look at it again.  It is powerful truth that can alter your life forever.)  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him would not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Jesus didn’t rise from the dead for this!

And they overcame him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony; they loved not their lives unto the death (Revelation 12:11).

So I just cashed a check and it reminded me of a friar named Ignacio from one of my favorite movies, Nacho Libre.  In the movie, Ignacio “Nacho” has a fascination for wrestling and teams up with Steven “Esqueleto” to compete in a novice wrestling match.  Ignacio has high-hopes for his career as a luchador, but during their first match he and Equeleto are utterly humiliated by a more experienced wrestler.  Even though they lose match after match they still get paid.  But their sweet reward turns sour.

“I don’t wanna be paid to lose!  I want to win!” Nacho tells Steven, “It sucks to be me right now.”

Now, I can totally see where Ignacio is coming from.   Starting a new job at an alternative school for troubled middle and high school students has a way of humbling you.  I’m sure that everyone can relate to the familiar feeling of defeat.

RISE (ironically, that’s the name of the school where I work) is a direct answer to my prayers and exactly what the doctor ordered to put to death my pride and impatience.  But at the end of most days, I came out of school a little sore (my ego takes a heavy beating).  The kids go home and I go home feeling like I just got my butt whooped by Silencio or Dynasty or some other goofy luchador from Nacho Libre.  I lost.  To my sinful self.  To my pride and my impatience.  To my shame.

So for several weeks the Lord has had me stuck on the death of Jesus Christ.  The event that shook all of history 2000 years ago.  A woman from my aunt’s church taught me a simple song on the guitar based on Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ and the life that I live in the flesh I live through the faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself up for me.” I went back into the ring. “You’re dead,” I told my old self as I pinned her shoulders to the mat, but before I knew it  I lost again.

“You said you didn’t want an easy job,” says my mom.  She massages my hand.

“I did,” I say and wince as her thumb rubs over a knot, “I still do.”  

But I don’t want to be paid to lose; I want to WIN.  Does it not say that we will over come by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony?  I’m starting to re-evaluate this whole luchadora-thing when it hits me: Jesus didn’t rise from the dead for this!  He didn’t rise from the dead so we could wallow in self-pity.  He didn’t rise from the dead so that we could stay stuck in our lives of sin.  He rose so that we could rise victorious WITH HIM. It’s at this moment that I high-five Jesus Christ into the ring to take my place.  This is his fight after all. And it’s already been won.

Scripture Verses for the Struggle:

1. What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life (Romans 6:1-4).

2. Consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance and perseverance must finish it’s work so that you may be mature and not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

3. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:24-5).

To Know and Be Known: Reflections on Psalm 139

Today, be blown away by our God.  Be like the psalmist David who sings, “Oh Lord you have searched me and you know me.  You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.”  Oh, this knowledge is needed–like a warm jacket as the leaves blow away and undress the trees outside your window.  When even your home feels like cold foreign soil and you, a foreigner, know this: He knows you.  When all those around you fail to understand your words, be sure of this: “Before a word is on [your] tongue, [God] knows it.”

I write this post after listening to an unrelated sermon and realizing that God really does know me.  I don’t know why it still surprises me when he speaks so directly into my life.  He always speaks through his word.  As if he knew me!  Well, he did create me after all.  Back in the Spring, I took a class on writing fiction with an amazing teacher who encouraged us to look for the “yearning” in each piece.  What is the desire at the heart of the characters?  I cannot tell you how many times we identified a yearning to be known, a desire for intimacy.  I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me either.  Why wouldn’t God create us with a yearning that He can so adequately fulfill?

I thank you, Lord, because I when desire to be known I can rest assured that my Creator knows me.  I trust you to fulfill all my needs.  I know that your word is my bread and that when I turn to it you will feed me.  I rejoice in your love and your intimacy.  “Search me, Oh Lord, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Movie Review: Facing the Giants

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I don’t know a thing about football. Touchdowns mean next to nothing to me. But after watching Fireproof and Courageous, my dad asked if Sherwood Pictures made any other movies.  That’s when I checked out Facing the Giants.

Movie Preview:
[cue the deep and booming movie intro voice] In a world echoing with southern accents and cheesy bible references, one man Grant Taylor, fails at life. His car won’t start. His football team just lost three games in a row. And his wife longs for a child she doesn’t have. When things can’t seem to get any worse, will Coach Taylor put his hope on the God he follows? Will his team have the courage to face the Giants? Will they trust that God will fight for them?

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9).”

I’ll admit I was a little skeptical at first.  A family friendly football movie?  Sounds pretty ordinary which is exactly what I love about Sherwood Pictures.  Their story and dialogue is ordinary and has to do with problems that real people face.  This movie won’t brush over the hard facts of life, but it will encourage you to trust in an all-powerful God.  So I say, give it a chance!

Coach Grant Taylor: “Winning football games is too small of a thing to live for. Even championship trophies will collect dust and one day be forgotten…Football is just one of the tools we use to glorify God.”

facing-the-giants-08

The Rear-view Mirror: Musings on the Place I Left and the Road Ahead

Months before graduating from Hope College, I wrote a blog-post about homesickness and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit in which I claimed that I was eager to go home but there were still things God wanted to teach me in Michigan. Well, now I’m writing from my yellow little house somewhere in the southern suburbs of Chicago. For the time being God has called me back and now (figures) my heart aches for the place I left.
Don’t get me wrong! God has provided. Within a week of turning down a part-time job in Grand Rapids, God provided a full-time job, a crusty van and a supportive family to welcome me to my hometown. It was evident that the Lord indeed had called me to come back.
But it’s hard to let go of a place like Holland, MI. I had planned to visit this past weekend and it was supposed to be the third time since I moved back to Illinois. My dad was a little nervous about Mallory (that’s what I named my crusty van). I was dead set on leaving this Friday.
It didn’t happen. All this weekend, I’ve felt embittered by a spirit of loneliness.  I long to be with my friends. What do I say to my heart that desires to be with the people I care about? God, don’t you know what it’s like to be separated from those you love?
And the Lord answers, more than you know. For too long were we all separated from the love of God because of our sin. He knows exactly what it’s like to be broken-hearted.  That’s why he sent Jesus.
It’s a comfort to know that the Lord understands.  It’s my joy to praise him for the way he blessed me during my four years in Holland, MI through beautiful Christ-centered relationships. I pray that one day the Lord will take me on another adventure in West Michigan. But this morning the Lord spoke through my Pastor who asked, “What’s larger your windshield or your rear-view mirror?”

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:13-4).

And then I was like O_o

There’s a long road ahead and I need to keep my eyes on my Destination.  He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.  It doesn’t mean I won’t ever get to go back. But it does mean that I can’t long for the past or the place I left. What God has done already is awesome, but he is doing a new thing.  Here.  Now.

phpThumb_generated_thumbnailjpg

Dear Michigan,

You left a mitten print on my heart. I won’t forget you. But God brought me here for this season. I will keep my eyes on the windshield and glance at the rear-view mirror when needed. I am expecting great things from the God I follow. He will not disappoint.

Hope to see you soon.

Blessings,
DMH

P.S. I will miss your beautiful autumn colors, but the trees here, too, proclaim His Glory.

Psalm 139, StrengthsQuest, and Creator God

One of my biggest prayers to the Lord post-Hope College has been for God to show me who he has created me to be. In the 139th psalm, David says to God, “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; all your works are wonderful”. ALL his works: including you and me. That sounds awfully egotistical. I try my best not to think I’m wonderful. Haven’t I been working toward humility? What’s all this “wonderful” business? I thought I was a broken human being.

Recently, I was sitting in my apartment with a couple of friends and a couple of steak Tacos from the corner store. It was Sunday and, as I unwrapped the first taco, one friend asked me if I believed in original sin.

“One second,” I said, “Let me pray first and then I’ll answer your question.”

So I said grace while my friends chuckled at the response.

We talked about the Lord in the beginning and his affirmation of creation: it is good. God is creator and all that he makes is good. Satan, on the other hand, is a destroyer, and he is not capable of creating. He can only distort what is good. So, yes, I suppose I do believe in original sin. I believe we’ve bought into the enemy’s lies and have exchanged good for something unnatural, broken: sin. The story doesn’t end there, of course. Despite all odds, God is willing and able to restore his creation.  In the light of this invitation, what does it mean to be fearfully and wonderfully made?

Last Thursday I started working for an incredible program called Upward Bound, a government funded program that supports high school students in preparation for college. These past few days have been exciting as I’ve interacted with my new teammates. Together we will accept the role of mentors and tutors for the next six weeks. The program hasn’t even started and I can already see areas of growth. One of the biggest aspects of our training includes the StrengthsQuest, an online questionnaire that identifies each person’s unique talents. Everyone on the team took the test before training. It’s the weirdest thing to talk about what you’re “good at”. The results are incredibly accurate. I read the description of my top five strengths and had goosebumps. This morning we had yet another team meeting. Each of us had a sheet of paper folded over like a name plate with all our strengths. We talked about specific moments in our lives when we’ve seen these strengths come through. Looking around, I noticed how different my teammates are from me. I saw all their talents and their value; I saw my own value. My God, the God of David and the God of Abraham, had made each of us. Fearfully and wonderfully. He made us. He made us for his glory. I talked myself out of crying. We were in a meeting, a positive team-building meeting. How would I explain myself to my new friends? Y’all are just too wonderful. Hahaha. Seriously though, in that moment, I saw how each of us is created in the image of the living God.

I think it’s weird, too, that God is teaching me about the way he created me, teaching me through positive psychology and an online quiz.  But who am I to question him?  I don’t pretend to know exactly what it means to be fearfully and wonderfully made.  But I do know that as a part of His creation, I have a purpose.  I am created to glorify and praise the Living God.  He is good and all that he makes is good, too.  I thank Him for the way he’s uniquely created me and others around me, so that we can work together.  I am so excited for God to refine the talents he’s created in me.  I surrender them all so that they can serve Him.  He is worthy.