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

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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.”

Not another love story: Thoughts on Twilight, 1 John and Relient K

I fought You for so long
I should have let You in
–Relient K Be my Escape

My friend did not confess to being a Twilight fan. I found the evidence in his car: Part Two Breaking Dawn. I thought it had to be a joke, but he was clearly not laughing.

“I guess I’m just jealous,” he confessed, “Jealous of those guys. I’ve never been loved like that. Not that sort of love. The I-would-die-for-you sort of love.”

I stopped laughing. Cleared my throat. “It’s definitely an escape,” I said. I read three out of the four books when I was in High School.

“Yes an escape,” he nodded.

Only hours later, as I wrote about my day in my Moleskin notebook, did I realize that my friend is wrong. He has been loved like that. I have, too. Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about 1 John. Not sure why I decided to read this epistle. But God decided to use it a lot to work in my heart. One of the verse that stands out and summarizes the entire letter is 3:16.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.”

If you ask me, this blows Twilight out of the water. If we’re going to use any text as an example of perfect love, this verse would be it. It’s been a while since I picked up one of Stephenie Meyer’s books, but I don’t think Bella and Edward’s love is much of a comparison to what Jesus offers us. Yet how many times have I mistaken fantasy for gospel? I’ll be the first to admit that I often forget that the good news satisfies more than the sort of love we crave. How silly. Like choosing cotton candy when what you really need is a full-course meal. All this to say that I have my doubts I’ll ever find a love that compares to Christ’s. He not only said “I would die for you”, but he lived up to his word. Died. Came back three days later.  

So there you have it.  Not your average love story.  More indestructible.  Eternal. Something more extraordinary (minus the sparkly vampires).

The only appropriate thing to post on Easter Sunday

All power and glory and honor to the Lamb who was slain and is risen.  He is risen indeed!

I found my match in the poetry world in the 16th Century English  poet, George Herbert.  This is the poem he wrote for the occasion.  I hope you enjoy it.

Easter

Rise heart; thy Lord is risen.  Sing his praise
Without delayes,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all musick is but three parts vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.