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

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight teach us about shame and grace

Synopsis

For those of you unfamiliar with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, let me fill you in on the romantic journey of the most honest and courteous knight of King Arthur’s round table.  Imagine this: King Arthur and his court are about to start their New Year’s feast when an impressive knight, entirely green including his horse, rides into the hall.  He says something along the lines of “remain calm.”  He holds an axe in one hand.  “I don’t wanna fight.”  He  challenges the court to a “Christmas game”, to strike him once with the axe with the condition that in a year he must strike back.  So Arthur rises to the challenge, but Sir Gawain volunteers to take his place.  He swings the ax and slices the Green Knights head off clean.  The Green Knight picks up his head and rides off saying, “See ya in a year”.  Soon, Gawain must brave the adventure to the Green Chapel where he will take a blow to the neck, but not before he faces temptation, three times by a beautiful lady in the Green Castle.  In the end, Gawain acquires a green girdle from Lady Bertilak; she claims the girdle will protect him.  He, fearing his life, hides the girdle from the master of the house, Sir Bertilak, to whom he has promised all that he gains during his stay in the Green Castle.

You've been punked.

You’ve been punked.

The day has finally arrived and Sir Gawain ties a girdle around his waist and goes to meet the Green Knight.  After all is said and done, Sir Gawain comes out of it with only a small wound on his neck.  “You’ve been punked,” says GK who it turns out is also Sir Bertilak.  “This was all a test on your integrity.”  Sir Gawain is overwhelmingly ashamed.  “Haha, don’t worry about it,” says GK, “At least you’re not a womanizer.  You did all this to protect your life.  And besides you confessed, so I forgive you.  It’s all forgotten.”  But Sir Gawain says, “I suck at life.  I can’t believe I did that.  I’m a coward.”  He goes back to Arthur’s court where he is greeted with kisses and pats on the shoulder while he broods, “I’m such a loser.  I can never forgive myself.”  And then they all laugh, eat and drink and wear green girdles around their necks as symbols of Sir Gawain’s adventure.

What’s the point?

Sir Gawain is suppose to be the most humble and honest of the Round Table.  Everyone respects him and praises him and when they do he responds, “I’m not that great.”  He sets the bar up pretty high for all the Knights at the Round Table including himself.  This is not a bad thing.  The problem is that his identity rests solely on his ability not to fall into temptation.   This is why he cannot accept the grace offered to him by the Green Knight when he fails.  His disappointment comes from the fact that he lost his integrity.

Perhaps, this has happened to you.  You made a mistake and return to God with head hung low and a wound on your neck.  And he says to you, “I do not keep a record of wrongs.  My love never fails.  You are clean despite all odds because of what Christ has done.” And you respond, “I can’t believe I did that.  I can never forgive myself.”  Don’t think for a second, that this response is a humble one.  Instead, step down from your high horse and accept the grace of God.  Let him welcome you into his arms and teach you to walk in his ways.

Two Quotes

I leave you with the following quotes which I feel apply to my life. I hope that you find truth here as well.  To read them in context, just click the quote.

1: “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!”
2: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

My mother’s middle name

I come from a traditional Mexican family with deep Catholic roots.  My grandmother and her four daughters all share the same first name, Maria.  Now, this would be confusing, but they all go by their middle names.  My mother’s is Graciela.  She’s always hated the name, shortened to Chela.  Chela is also slang for cold beer.  The name was always too thick.  She wanted a sweeter name.

I cannot fully explain the significance of my mother’s middle name.  I can tell you it means grace in Spanish.  I don’t think there is a more underestimated word in the any dictionary.  Through grace we are saved and not by works.  So no one can go to God and boast.  I have done nothing to deserve God’s grace.  Nothing.  There is no reason why I should know God.  There is no reason why He should hear me.  I am not faithful.  God is.  His grace is a gift.  No strings attached.

Maria goes by her first name.  She named her first daughter Daisy.  Simple, sober.  I couldn’t think of a better name for a flower quickly fading.

Jesus, not because of who I am but because of what you’ve done.  Not because of what I’ve done, but because of who you are.  This why I am clean.  I am white as snow.  I have you to thank.  Praise you, Lord Jesus. Amen.