Years ago when we remodeled our house we took in the space in our attic and made it into a work space for art projects, my writing and the little nook I call my prayer loft. This past week I have been reorganizing the art project area of my loft. It seems to be in constant disaster with piles of stuff and not enough shelves for everything and the ever growing collection of books. I finally asked Ken to hang a curtain to separate the project area from my prayer and writing part of the loft so that I could think. I’m not really convinced that was such a great idea because now I can just close the curtain and pretend the mess isn’‘t there!
The mess behind the curtain waiting to be organized! Seriously this table was totally clear a week ago! And those red cabinets are repurposed utility room cabinets in the remodel of our attic that I've been planning to paint a calming cream color for about 5 years.
You see what I mean about not sure the curtain is such a great idea.... but I do love that peaceful prayer loft!
Notice the picture does not show the tubs of books and files on the floor underneath the table! This picture is included for those of you struggling with home organization and simplifying your life to help you feel better about yourselves:)
For the last few months, I’ve been looking for the perfect, cheap solution. Last week I managed to talk a store owner out of her large display shelf for only $109 so that I could move some of my books into that area. Once again my sweet husband hauled it up the steps and set it up for me. As I attempted to organize and group the books I was reminded of some of the lessons I have learned through them. I love to read.
I found myself fingering the books that have impacted my journey through the years. If the truth be told there are shelves of books in almost every room of our house. It would probably be better to put them all in one place. I think they call that a home library! Well, that is just too overwhelming at the moment. My new bookcase will have to do for the current storage issues. I’m sure some of you out there can relate.
There is the whole Tozer section which I’ll save for a later date as the faith lessons and challenges learned through his Biblical teaching are rich and always stirring in my heart. That will definitely be part of the “Savoring a good read” blog! There is the bottom shelf of Bible study notebooks and then there is the section of creativity books.
I remember the intentional search and study in that area of my life about 8 or 9 years ago. I felt the Lord was impressing on me to reach out to artists in our community, to minister to them spiritually. It’s easy to become isolated as an artist. And, unfortunately, the church often just doesn’t get “those artist types”. ( That would be me.) I wondered what books were out there about the soul of the Christian artist? Books to guide and inspire us. I was preparing to lead a series of workshops at our church on creativity from a spiritual perspective. I was surprised to learn how few resources were available.
Through the years a little more has been written as the church has begun to wrestle with the need to reclaim the arts for the glory of God. I began to think back on some of the truths I learned as I gathered my books together to put on the shelves. Some were missing. They will hopefully be found at some point amid the sea of books in my home! One of my favorites that I’ve yet to uncover is “Walking on Water” by Madeline L’Engle. It was the first “aritist” book I read in my research and is full of wonderful insight and challenges. I highly recommend it if your looking for a “good read.”
I remember this one quote from her that I wrote down to save.
“Artists draw people to Christ by...showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it. If our lives are truly ‘hid with Christ in God,’ the astounding thing is that this hiddenness is revealed in all that we do and say and write.”
I gathered some of my favorite books on art before finding their place on my new bookshelf. I suppose if I had to choose one that impacted me the most on of the purpose of art and creativity it would be “Scribbling in the Sand” by Michael Card.....
or “Windows of the Soul” by Ken Gire.
It’s too hard to choose.
I remember when the desire to make pottery first hit me. I had never considered it before. I’m a musician. That has been the primary focus of my creative life and my career. But, one night years ago I went to a home art show of a local Christian artist and saw the most beautiful, pieces of pottery. The beauty and grace in them touched me in a deep place, unlike any pottery I had ever seen before. I just had to learn how to make them. God was about to take me on a creative road trip out of the rut I was in. Sometimes He does that to us “creative” types. I was so persistent with this incredible artist, Becky Nash, that she finally agreed to teach me in a class. I was hooked. I called my pottery “Vessels of Grace.” Several classes later and after making many wonderful pieces to give away for several years I began to let it go. I let excuses take over my days.
No time. Too much to do. Too expensive - making art is a luxury I can’t afford. I’m not good enough. The budget got cut at the church for the creativity classes and I got disillusioned.
With my pottery, I forgot the simple pleasure of just creating for the joy of it,
for the beauty of it, for the pleasure it brought others and myself.
We are made in the image of the Creator God and therefore I believe deep within us is the desire to create. It can take many forms, but the desire is there - deep within us.
It might not be pottery for you. I know there are many other areas of my life where I am always responding with the creative spirit God has given me.
For you, It could be the desire to be creative in cooking a meal for your family, or organizing your home, or creating a beautiful oasis in the garden, or creatively bringing a team together at work, or parenting your child, crafting a lesson to teach, choosing the perfect gift and wrapping it up with that special touch or a painting or a poem or a conversation that brings healing and the touch of His grace or the beautiful way you creatively love another person. It could be simply writing a note to encourage or thank a friend. This past week I finally took the time to write some long overdue thank you notes. To my surprise, in the last few days I’ve gotten 3 emails, 2 texts and a phone call thanking me for the note!
Or your creative desires might be hidden away. You may have let self doubt or judgement kill that desire.
You may have been told it was a waste of time, frivolous. You might not even recognize the creativity within you. That is the most common thing I’m told, “I’m just not a creative person.” Perhaps you simply don’t recognize it. Maybe you just got tired. Sometimes we do need to let our pursuits rest awhile and God does call us to move out of one and into another. Maybe your in a rut and need to try something new or take a class.
When I came back home from the pottery studio, I looked at the few pieces I have left in my home that I haven’t given away. The making of them brought me such pleasure, I made new friends. I entered into the part of the Story Jesus wanted to teach me through the process. I learned faith lessons through this part of my creative journey. I faced fears and the result blessed others.
Sometimes we let things go because the Lord is moving us in another direction and sometimes we just don’t give it priority in our lives.
If you are struggling with creativity in your life it’s important to ask those questions.
Years ago I began the practice of writing down favorite, inspiring quotes from authors. I have a whole section on the arts. So I pulled them out again and read in hopes that they would rekindle something within my creative spirit. I’ve included a few of my favorites below for you to ponder.
"There is a unique responsibility attached to the word “artist.” It is always to give more—see more, create more, love more—than what is merely required. The bottom line for the artist is not merely truth, but truth and love. Truth and beauty. It takes an unswerving love for the
Poet of the Commandments to swallow
the truth of his tablet-words,
then allow them to run liquid and living--
and beautiful—through our souls."
Joy Sawyer, The Art of the Soul
When I opened the cover of this book, The Art of the Soul, I read the inscription inside before placing it in its new home on the shelf - “Mom, this book is perfect for you because you definitely have a creative spirit. I hope you will enjoy the book. Thank you for all you do. Merry Christmas 2005. Love, Mary Elizabeth”. She was 14.
I believe sometimes we think we can’t give time for ourselves to do the creative things we love because of the responsibilities of family. But, often the truth is that our children benefit from the time we give to our creative endeavors and see the value sometimes more than we do ourselves.
When we neglect the things that God has wired us to love, that part of us is missing from the way we love
and minister to our family and friends.
"The call to servanthood causes the creative gift to come alive. It gives it color and tone and direction and purpose. The art that naturally flows out of our obedient response to the call of God on our lives, as a result of the imprint of the creative mandate, can , by grace, become water to wash the feet of sisters and brothers, cold water to quench the thirst of an unbelieving world. To become servants of Christ is the highest goal we can aspire to in our creative work."
Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand
"To worship God----to enjoy him----while creating is an act of faith. When, like prayer you put aside the desire to role-play and come quietly, expectantly, he wants you to know he listens. He hears. He knows why you’re sitting at that potter’s wheel, that sewing machine, that kitchen table. and he delights when you delight in him." Joy Sawyer
“God is an artist and he is beautiful. He has woven his image into the fabric of our lives, which explains our drive to create things which are beyond us and which we don’t always understand. Perhaps more important, he has issued a call to us that carries with it the possibility of obedience or disobedience: the call to respond to his beauty with creative worship. God calls us to create a space in time for ourselves and others to meet with God, to gaze upon his beauty and to worship him.” Michael Card, Scribbling in the Sand
The Father has generously given us gifts. It is so important to nurture the gifts God has given us. To make that space. To do that requires that we are intentional, even creative in finding the time to be creative!
In the seasons of my life when I was most faithful to make pottery, I had more work outside the home than I do now and a teenager at home. I’ve learned this through the years, we make time in our lives for what we really value. It might mean saying no to something else. If you look at your calendar, it will reveal what you value most. When I look back at the most creative seasons of my life I can honestly say it was more than worth the time I invested. Creativity can’t be measured in dollars spent or even earned from the artistic pursuit. It’s about pursuing your passions, the things that bring you joy and honor the Creator with the unique way that He has made you and the gifts and talents He has given you.
"Your authenticity does not depend on proving to people or to God—with pitches, paints, or pen—that you really quite a piece of work. Rather, I pray that you are discovering that your authenticity lies in who you are constantly becoming in Christ, and that you make art because you cannot keep yourself from the simple joy of shaping something as best you can and then pouring it over Jesus’ feet. The only reason for doing your very best, despite any cost, is the infinite worth of Jesus, for making art this way is where authenticity lies." Harold Best, Scribbling in the Sand
Matthew 13:10-15 (MSG)
10 The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”
11-15 He replied, “You’ve been given insight into God’s kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn’t been given to them. Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That’s why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.
"In art, either as creators or participators, we are helped to remember some of the glorious things we had forgotten, and some of the terrible things we are asked to endure, we who are children of God by adoption and grace."
Madeline L’Engle. Walking on Water
It’s important to make time for our creative gifts, time for the things we love. Time to explore, discover, create, dream. In our Restore retreats we always include a creativity party on our 2nd night for those who want to participate. Something to make that is a reminder of the spiritual lessons we’ve learned, or a gift to bring home to pass on to someone who needs a little encouragement. It’s part of our Soulcare mission!
Recently Sherry and I have been talking about expanding the ministry of Restore to include one day creativity workshops in some of the different artistic pursuits. They could include things such as gardening, painting, pottery, writing, creativity in the home, cooking, creative journaling, flower arrangement, music, photography, drama. I think the idea really stirs from a hunger in my own soul ... to continue the work the Lord started in my spirit years ago.... to be a part of that journey in the lives of others and be inspired in my own path of creativity in the process. And of course, Sherry’s brain is always exploding with creative ideas! The workshops would include teaching by professional artists combined with a Biblical teaching that relates to the artistic area we are studying.
What do you think? Does that interest you? I’m not sure how the Lord will lead us. If something like that interests you then leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.
What are the creative questions, roadblocks and struggles in your life?
Write them down.
Then spend some moments in prayer asking the Father help you release them into His hands so that He can use you to draw others to that irresistible light of Christ.
Ask Him to help you discover and savor the creative spirit He has placed within you.
You are part of His creative Story of redemption. You have been given creative gifts to serve and worship Jesus. Consider creating something this week for the simple joy of it or to pour the love and grace of Jesus on someone in your life.
No one else can tell the Story exactly like you!
Savoring His creativity within me,
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If only a drop can extend life, imagine a full well or even a river with massive droplets held together by love,
washing you…quenching you…flooding you!
It seems like I am always running out of everything at the same time. This week my eyeliner & mascara needed extending, my liquid soap, some cleaning supplies, and I cannot even remember what else. I was just struck by sudden need to add a drop of water to stretch out the life of my products. Of course this kicked my brain in gear! It seems that I am always looking for a spiritual truth in the simplest task of life. Spend a brief moment before you read any further, pray and ask God to open the eyes and ears of your heart. I have thought deeply about each of the following examples and the Word and Spirit of God have illuminated my understanding. It is very difficult for me to adequately convey my insight, as many of the illustrations are personal. It is my prayer that God will uniquely speak directly to you through my thoughts and His Word. (You may click on the scripture references to be linked to online Bible) Don't forget that John 7 speaks of Jesus providing our source of Living Water! And in Genesis 1:2, God moved upon the face of the waters before the earth was created. Water is important to life. Scientist even agree that water is essential for the kind of delicate chemistry that makes life possible.*
Things to ponder...read them slowly...absorb the truths:
Once a drop is released, it cannot be withheld. It falls with full force and power.
Whether a drop is intentional or free falling, the impact is wide spread.
More drops in a centralized area cause filling.
Many drops combined cause greater effect.
Drops always rebound upward.
Droplets divide and merge (grow) depending on conditions and direction.
Dependent on something other than itself – it has released its control
Reacts or responds willingly
I encourage you this week to keep the word “drop” on your mind. If you are so inclined, and have time, do a little research on water droplets. You just may be showered with more spiritual truths and can add to my list! Look for ways that God drops things on your mind, in your heart, and along your path. Share those things with others. Sharing is a form of reassurance and inspiration for other believers. We are commanded to do so. Likewise, seek opportunities to drop words of encouragement, prayers, and blessings into the lives of others…whether you think they need it or not!
Finally, drop to your knees…release control and depend on God, react and respond willingly, be obedient to every request of the Lord...even the soft hush that seems out of the blue or a just fleeting thought. All of these things will, no doubt, produce positive direction in your life.
Remember that a flood begins with just one drop!
"God's love for us floods our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." Romans 5:5
Thinking of Drops with a new perspective,
So my day started out with me having a pity party in bed. I really didn’t have time to be sick. Do we ever have time to be sick? I had to cancel 6 voice lessons which meant inconveniencing all those people and having to reschedule for later. Plus, I couldn’t breathe, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t sleep, my head felt like it might explode and my body ached from the fever. All this from a cold?!! Before the day was over I had gone through all 3 Kleenex boxes and was onto the toilet paper roll!! As I lay in bed, I thought about the fact that this was my week to blog and all I wanted to do was crawl up under the covers. Really! My last blog was about savoring the moments of our lives and I thought the Lord would maybe give me some insight into developing it further, but I definitely was not in the mood to savor anything! I had an agenda for my day, we had bought tickets for Ballet Magnificat that night and it had all fallen apart. So as I lay there in my pity party, I just began to look around my bedroom. I don’t spend much time just looking at the walls in my bedroom. I mostly sleep there or read. But today, since sleep wasn’t coming I took in the four walls.
I was surrounded by beauty and evidence of love. As I took in each wall, my mind was flooded with memories or people whom the objects on my walls reminded me of.
And that prompted me to pray,
to be grateful,
to savor even these moments of a day sick in bed.
I tried to read a little, but my mind couldn’t take in too much. Our little dog Lily, 14 years old, found her way up onto the bed and snored beside me. Sleeping is never a problem for her!
The first picture that caught my attention was the Living Water collage. It is new to our bedroom. It lived in my office at church for years, even traveled around to some other homes, and now it has a new home in our bedroom. I’ve always thought of it as God’s work of art. As I studied it, my mind began to go back over the memories of how it was created. I’m often asked the story behind it since it is so unusual. In 2003, I wrote a 17 week Bible study entitled Living Water. It is a study on some of the attributes of God’s character and disciplines of the faith. It was first presented to a group of about 100 women and the Lord did a deep work in my life through the writing and teaching of it. A couple of years later I invited a group of friends to go through the study with me in my home.
I wanted to provide a more intimate setting.
We spent months digging into God’s word and sharing our struggles. I decided to end the study with a weekend retreat. Our focus that weekend was a prayer journey entitled “Come Unto Me”.
I sensed the Lord impressing on me to try a creative project with these women.
And so , at the retreat, I put a large, blank canvas outside and the only thing I did was attach the wooden cross to it. I asked the women to bring pictures from magazines, or items that visually represented the truths they had learned over the course of the study and pictures that represented things they loved, images that brought them joy because of the unique way God had created them. I brought some ribbons, papers and decorative pens and throughout the weekend the large canvas collage began to take on a unique beauty.
Some of the themes that emerged during the weekend on the collage were
Jesus as our Good Shepherd,
the Bride of Christ,
Deep waters - deep calls unto deep,
blood of redemption,
redeem the time,
and Jesus - our living water
that flows from the cross.....
When I gazed at the picture from my bed, I thought of each woman who had bared her soul and placed her creative offerings there. And I prayed and thanked God for them. I savored the memory of that season of my life and the people the Lord used to teach me deep truths.
Then my eyes gazed down the wall to the shelves holding some favorite books, family pictures of my parents, grandparents and children. I prayed and thanked God for the heritage of love through the generations. I know there are many who have not been so blessed in their families.
Then I pondered the picture under the shelves. My oldest daughter painted it for me for Mother’s Day in 2008. It was the year I retired from 25 years of leading a creative arts and music program for children. I was sure that God had led me to the decision. It was time to let someone else lead, but there was a hole inside me after so many years of ministry and hugs from those sweet little ones.
Maggie sensed that and created the 3 frame picture
-me reflecting, looking out into the unknown,
-the hope of a new season in spring blossoms
-and me walking forward holding the bouquet of flowers ....... the symbol of change and a new season.
How perceptive for one so young!
And I thought of how it represents my life even today, as I move forward once more into a new season. And I savored the moment that gazing on those pictures represented. That little narrow space on my bedroom wall represented a different kind of collage -
of family and love. And I thanked the Father.
Next my eyes moved over to the main wall of our bedroom and well, there was another grouping of pictures or a collage. I see a theme emerging here, at least in this room!
I remember telling my husband that I wanted to make a grouping on this large wall years ago when we redecorated. He started me off with the stone cross and later the St. Francis plaque. Through the years I've added to it and made a few changes.
Recently, I added the dogwood picture and poem printed on handmade paper. Sherry gave it to me a few years ago and my friend Monica framed it so beautifully using our Restore lavender color. We used it for the altar for our worship service on our first Restore Masterpiece Retreat.
And now as I gaze on that wall collage, I’m grateful for my sweet husband who started it off, so thoughtful and kind, and for friends who know me so well that they make special gifts to grace my walls with truth. Each piece was placed there because it represents something significant to me.
And I spent some time praying and thanking Jesus for His provision of a loving husband and friends and a home and a bed to lie down on to rest.
After a little rest, I took in other photographs and paintings on my four walls, gifts from Ken and the girls, and each of them brought something
to my mind to pray for.
Our lives really are like a beautiful collage that the Lord is creating. Isn’t it wonderful to stop and ponder how He is piecing together the people and seasons of our lives? My sick day has been a great reminder of that and I’m grateful. I have seen and experienced through the images on my walls moments and memories to savor in my family, marriage, friends, ministry, and my home on this day. Our homes should be a reflection of the people and things we love, a reminder of the grace and blessings He brings to every day, even when it doesn’t go exactly like we had planned, even when you have a sick day in bed.
Savoring the moments and resting in His grace,
This weekend I attended a ladies tea at the new little church where I have been visiting. We were all instructed to bring our own teacup. That was of course no problem for me, as I love every aspect of tea parties, the food, the fellowship and… I love china! There was no problem in choosing one of my favorite ones to bring, either! There it was, sitting in my grandmother’s golden colored curio that my grandfather bought for her on their “golden” wedding anniversary! Now, this is not an old antique cup and saucer past down nor is it one that is chipped and stained. No, a dear friend gave this special teacup to me a few years ago, and it does carry special meaning; however, I’ll cherish that thought and keep it to myself. Instead, I began to think about this cup, it’s color, the shape, and it’s design. I just knew the question would be raised to the women there at the gathering, why did they choose the cup they brought! I wanted to be prepared with an answer and so I began to ponder. Quickly I came up with things like the depth of the cup is not shallow! I love to engage in deep conversation and like this cup; my way of thinking is rather deep. It is edged with gold, which reminds me that as a daughter of the King, I have royal blood flowing through my veins. The colors of the cup symbolize white for honesty and purity and the Caribbean blue green for water…living water! Deep translucent water that is common to the isles of the West Indies! I was surely prepared for any question pertaining to my cup and of course, laced with a spiritual emphasis!
(Click the arrow to begin music here if you wish)
As I showered to get ready for the event, I was reminded about those Caribbean waters. Many years ago I had the opportunity to snorkel in those waters around the Bahama Islands. It was an adventure that I couldn’t pass up even though I’m not a very good swimmer. I remember three instructions were given to us by the guide: 1) remove any shinny jewelry 2) beware of a long slender fish that looks like a submarine, it’s a Barracuda and they are attracted to shiny things, Barracuda’s are dangerous 3) don’t wander too far from the boat. My body slid into the warm waters and face down, I experienced the most beautiful scenery! God’s underwater creation was amazing! Tropical fish swam just below me and the corral reef was exquisite. I was so overtaken by the underwater view that I lost sight of how far I had drifted from the boat and had given the pull of the tide no thought!
All was so peaceful and I was basking in the beauty until… you guessed it! A gray submarine quickly swam just past me! BARRACUDA!!! And barracudas = danger! My heart rate began to race as I thought about many things and remembered that I don’t swim very well, there is a dangerous fish in my vicinity, and as I lifted my head out of the water to see where I was, I realized that the boat was VERY far from me. I began to panic and attempted to swim as fast as I could back toward the boat. These words became my theme as I repeated them over and over in my mind: “I’ve got to get to the refuge! I’ve got to get to the refuge!” And as I sit and write these very words and recall that event, I can feel my anxious heart even now, pick up speed! Still during my distress, I took notice that I didn’t say, “I’ve got to get back to the boat!” It was the refuge, instead!
God took that opportunity to teach me a very important lesson. I learned it well while racing back to the boat and to where there were other people. He is my refuge. The refuge is a place of safety. It is shelter from pursuit that seems dangerous or laden with trouble. In life, there are many beautiful and appealing things that try to lure me into territory that is not safe for me. Even though trouble often pursues me, I will seek and find safety in the refuge of the Almighty.
I have not, nor would I have not thought about that experience for a long time had it not been for that teacup!
But here is the clincher…in my boasting to find a cup with symbolically spiritual significance, I found myself drifting into dangerous territory. I drifted into the Sea of Man’s Approval. To “look and sound spiritual” so that I could measure up or to be found worthy with this new group of women. I’m confessing my fault here with an open and honest heart. It was a stench in the nostrils of God. Just like those beautiful underwater scenes that led me further away from the boat, those unaware thoughts of exhibiting my “spiritual matureness” led me further from portraying who I really am in Christ. A sinner who is forgiven by grace! Isn’t that all that really matters? Not my spiritual pedigree. If I am to boast, let me boast of The Lord and His saving grace.
Thus says the LORD, "Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom,
and let not the mighty man boast of his might,
let not a rich man boast of his riches;
but let him who boasts boast of this,
that he understands and knows Me,
that I am the LORD who exercises lovingkindness, justice and righteousness on earth;
for I delight in these things," declares the LORD.
I met with the Lord this past weekend. He revealed a heart that has been wounded, hardened, and sick. If we are honest with one another, I’m sure you can say that you’ve been there too. Let’s race together to the refuge! It’s a place where the Lord offers loving kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. His billows of grace and healing break and crash on those whom He calls His own. I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my strength.
(Psalm 46 makes for good reading here!)
Dear Lord, I am a vessel (cup) for you and your purpose. Lately, my vibrant color has been tainted and stained by shadows of pride and self preservation. I have been chipped, broken, and carry bitter drink. Today, I re-wash myself in your forgiveness and re-dedicate myself to be filled to overflowing with the living water that you give. I pray that as I move through my days and into the weeks, that you will allow me to offer the sweet drink of your love to others. Only you can satisfy the parched soul and quench the thirst of the thirsty. Use me as you see fit to pour myself out and serve others in your name. Let the color of my cup reflect the radiant prism of your glory! In the name of Jesus, my Savior and my refuge I pray these things, Amen.
Here’s a little God humor…
At the women’s tea, the question “Why did you choose this particular cup to bring?” was never asked or discussed!
Blessed and refilled,
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