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Archive for August, 2010

The windows are open, the fan is on high and soft music plays over ocean sounds.  I sat down to play my song and begin my prayers and spend time with my Heavenly Father.

Focus.

I closed my eyes and entered the throne room where the King sat upon his royal throne.  I went forth and bowed down.  Thoughts swirled in my head.

Focus.

Something was amiss.  I looked up only to see my Father’s hand beckoning for me to come up into his lap.  I am a child.  As I took his hand we were suddenly transported to a vast shoreline.  We walked along the cool morning sand, still damp from where the tide had gone out.  The waves came running in and crashing upon the shore before racing up to chase our feet.  I could feel the breeze, hear the waves, smell the salty air.  My hand was securely held in the hand of my Father and again thoughts began swirl in my head.  So many things to say.

Quiet, child. Came the gentle admonishment of my Father.

We walked in silence.

Then the words from today’s reading began to scroll upon the horizon over the sea.

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The LORD has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies
The King of Israel, the LORD, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
Zephaniah 3:14-15

Shout for joy… rejoice and exult!

Joy and praise began to well up within me.  And as I looked there was a vast crowd all around, dressed in white, dancing and rejoicing.  I watched in wonder for awhile before releasing from my Father’s hand to join in with them.  Singing.  Dancing.  Praising.  Rejoicing.

Shout for joy… rejoice and exult!  The Lord has taken away the judgements against you!

Grateful.  Singing.  Dancing.  Praising.  Rejoicing.

The King of Israel, the Lord is in your midst…

I turned back to where the King had stood, ready to continue celebrating the removal of judgements and the presence of the King in our midst.

But I stopped.

For my eyes fell not upon a kingly form, but a lowly form, hanging upon a cross.  Bruised, broken, dead.

So this is how the judgements were removed…

He took them upon himself.

The Lord is in our midst… Emmanuel… God with us… Jesus… Savior…

So that we might be with Him.

I fell to my knees and bowed before Him.  Tears came as the wonder of grace crashed over me like the waves upon the shore.

Then I sensed a powerful presence standing right in front of me.  I looked up to see my King standing there, only now the wounds in his feet and hands were more prominent.  Thoughts swirled in my head once again but this time they were thoughts of gratitude and grace and praise and worship and adoration and such that I cannot describe.  For I wanted so badly to be able to speak what was in my heart but no words seemed quite accurate for what I had witnessed and experienced.

He stretched out His hand to me, lifted me to my feet and embraced me.

He knew.

Oh how I long to love you fully, worship you fully, know you fully… with my heart and my soul and my mind and my strength!  Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you!


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I see you You here, I feel Your hand.
Vast and mysterious is Your plan.
If all things start and end with You,
then I can beleive that dreams do come true.

That’s a line out of one of the songs from Sight & Sound’s production of Joseph.  I saw it last Tuesday and I haven’t been able to shake it out of my head yet.  Not that I mind, because I don’t.  I believe it was their best production ever (on so many levels) and for me even tops the Broadway version of Joseph (which I never thought would happen)!  I won’t go into detail here about the musical itself, but I would highly recommend you see it if you get the chance.

But seeing Joseph has got me thinking again.  Or perhaps “dreaming” would be a better word.  Or is it that I’m thinking about dreaming?

If you’ve followed my blogs since this spring, or even before, you’ll note that I have many dreams and I have recently wrestled with following God’s call and being on the right path.  And in many ways I still do.  Not the “where” so much as the “hows” these days.  God has given me dreams and visions and sometimes I’m not sure what to do with them all…

I’m not the first one to be given dreams and visions.  The Bible is full of people who were given dreams and visions – and hopes and promises.  And I’ve been thinking about them a great deal recently.  Specifically how most of them took years to be fulfilled.  In fact, I haven’t been able to think of any that came true instantly…  but I do know several instances in which the dreamer never did get to see the fulfillment of the dream.

Like David.  Now his wasn’t a literal dream like Joseph or Daniel had.  His was a vision.  Born out of a love for God and desire to worship Him.  He had a vision of building a temple for the worship of the God who called him, anointed him, made him king, saved him, strengthened him, forgave him and so on.  And God said that it was good that he had this desire, this vision, this dream.  But that he was not the one to see it through.  David had a vision of a temple that he would never see.  His son built it.  And David, for his part, imparted the dream and helped to make preparations.

So, as I’ve noted before, sometimes the dream or vision is given not for us to fulfill, but to make paths or preparations to that it is fulfilled in the future.

Then there’s Joseph.  Joseph was about 17 when he had dreams involving his brothers bowing down to him.  But he was probably 37 or older until that dream was fulfilled.  And for many years it probably seemed he was getting further from the fulfillment of that dream than closer to it.  His brothers sold him into slavery.  No one bows down to a slave.  Then on top of that, he was thrown into prison.  Instead of getting higher and higher into a position where people would bow to him, he was getting lower and lower.  The scripture says he was 30 when Pharaoh made him second over Egypt.  So that’s some 13 years of the dream seemingly going in the wrong direction.  Clouded, distant and with too many obstacles…. but eventually, some 20 or so years later, his brothers were indeed bowing down to him.

So sometimes the dream is a long time in coming and can seem impossible due to the way that things are currently happening.

And then there’s Nehemiah.  His also was more of a God-given vision than a literal dream.  He heard the report that though the temple had been rebuilt, Jerusalem still lay in ruins and unprotected with a broken down wall.  So with God’s guidance, favor and protection, Nehemiah was granted permission (and supplies) from the king to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall.  Nehemiah didn’t reveal all his plans at once and we can see from the scriptures that he prayed and planned as much as he acted.  We read his prayers, his thoughts, the opposition that he faced and about the completion of the walls and even other rebuilding aspects of Jerusalem.

So sometimes the fulfillment of the dream comes after prayer and planning and much hard work.

I have dreams and visions.  Sometimes seemingly grand dreams and visions.  It is highly likely that some will never be fulfilled in my lifetime or at my hand.  But the dream given to me will be passed along or somehow inspire others like a seed planted only to blossom later.  And I’m sure that some of my visions and dreams are going to require prayer and planning and hard work and perseverance in the face of opposition.  And I am in great need of having a little Nehemiah-character in my life!

But at the moment I feel more like Joseph.  My head swirling with these dreams that seem far off, remote and completely incompatible with my current surroundings and circumstances.  It seems every time I try to step forward with these dreams and visions, I am stopped short or cut down by health issues or other problems (as if my own tendency towards being distracted wasn’t enough)… Fatigue, headaches, dizziness, pain, stiffness and frequent illness and injury are not conducive to either teaching or performing mime!  So what’s a girl to do with the dream?

Because sometimes the dream is meant to be fulfilled in our lifetime and at our hand and sometimes the obstacles are more like Joseph’s (preventing the  dream for a time) rather than Nehemiah’s (to be fought through and overcome in a shorter period).

So I look to Joseph again.

He didn’t get to be second in Egypt by studying hard and working his way to the top one rung at a time.  He got there by being faithful and obedient to God.  Being a good steward of whatever he was given at the time.  When he was sold into slavery he worked hard and was a good steward of what he was given so that he ended up running the entire household!  When he was put into prison, his character and good stewardship allowed him to be put into a position of helping to run the prison!   The long and short of it?  It was Joseph’s character, his faithfulness to God and good stewardship of even the small things that put him in the position for God to use him and raise him up.

I need to be faithful to God.  I need to be a good steward of what God has placed in my hands – even if it’s not what I expected at this time.  And if you look closely, David and Nehemiah were actually being faithful and good stewards, too.  So whether these dreams are meant for someone else, to come true a long time from now or to be hard-won in a shorter time frame, it is my faithfulness and obedience to God and my stewardship to what I have been given which is what matters now and in the day to day.

Oh, God, give me a heart like David and character like Nehemiah and Joseph.

Or, to further quote from that song from Joseph,

Please make me wise, so that I might know
the will of my Lord from here below.
I see you You here, I feel Your hand.
Vast and mysterious is Your plan.
If all things start and end with You,
then I can beleive that dreams do come true.

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The two chapters I read yesterday in Rory Noland’s Heart of the Artist were not only great chapters, but in many ways they spoke to where I am, reiterated what I’ve been learning and brought back to mind various scriptures which God has been pointing out to me lately.  So I thought I’d ponder them a little more…

The artist who was given one talent was waiting by the baggage claim. “Master,” he sheepishly started, “I didn’t want you to get mad at me. I’m pretty sensitive, you know, and I don’t handle rejection very well, and it’s so hard being an artist in this cold, cruel world.  I wasn’t really good enough to make it big-time, because you only gave me one talent, so I didn’t do anything with my talent.  I hid it. Here, you can have it all back.” The artist opened his hand and looked straight down at his shoes. The talent was as new and undeveloped as the day he got it.

The old man was silent. Then he responded in a soft voice, “My dear friend, you have squandered a fortune. I gave you something that was meant to be used. The issue was not how much I gave but what you did with what you had.”

If you did not recognize it, this is a retelling of Jesus’ parable of the talents as found in Matthew 25.  Noland’s creative approach caught my attention.  I mean, I know the parable.  I know it well.  But sometimes when something is so familiar, we overlook it or take it for granted until deeper  truths are revealed by a fresh perspective.

Noland’s retelling was a fresh perspective for me.  I think the first thing that really hit home was the simple, sad statement of “The talent was as new and undeveloped as the day he got it.”  He had done nothing.  Out of fear.  Out of insignificance.  In either case, the gift was squandered.

The second thing that I took notice of was the reply of the “master.”

The issue was not how much I gave but what you did with what you had.

I have several talents.  None of them outstanding or superior or in any way fit to make me a super star.  And while a few of them could be developed much more than they are, mostly my design is such that I have a smattering of gifts which are broad but not deep.  Which has caused me (I sheepishly admit) to disparage of what I have been given and to look with jealousy or envy on others more than once.  I see others who are far more talented, far more dedicated, (far more healthy), far more successful… and though I generally rejoice in the success of my friends and others in my fields, sometimes… sometimes it’s hard.

But it’s not about me.

Or comparisons.

What matters is the stewardship – my faithfulness – with what I’ve been given.

Noland gives good advice on dealing with jealousy and envy: confess it as sin, appreciate your God-given talent and give credit where credit is due… bringing it all back to faithfulness and stewardship.  And in the process of describing all that as well as in the following chapter on handling emotions, he mentions Bible characters, stories and passages which I’ve previously connected with or from which God has recently revealed truths in my life.

Like Peter wanting to know “what about him?” referring to John who was behind them as Jesus was giving an assignment (“feed my sheep”) to Peter.  Jesus’ response? “What is that to you? You follow me.”

Hmm…

Psalm 37:4 “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart” seen in conjunction with James 4 “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

Hmm…

He re-tells the parable of the workers from Matthew 20 using artists and arts ministry, bringing home the point with verse 15, “Or are you envious because I am generous?”  God in his sovereignty decides who gets which skills and talents and we in worship need to submit our attitudes to God’s sovereignty and be content (and faithful) with what we’ve been given rather than questioning the “fairness” of it all.

So he points to David who, though it was a “good thing to want” was told by God not to build a temple.  David’s son would do it.  He had a heart of worship and so desired to see a temple built and used for the worship and glory of God.  But he was told ‘no.’  He wouldn’t even get to see it.  But he didn’t sulk or complain.  Instead, he accepted God’s word and helped his son in preparations.

Hmm… wasn’t that a passage that God caught my attention with several weeks back?

Hmm…

Even Jonathan and David.  If anyone had a good “excuse” to be jealous or envious it was Jonathan, the king’s son, one who could have inherited his father’s throne… except it had been given to David.  But Jonathan accepted that and became a dear, dear friend to David.

Hmm…

Remember Cain and Abel?  Abel was faithful and obedient in his offering and Cain was not.  But “the Bible doesn’t say that God was made at Cain” Noland points out – in fact, he was given a second chance and God laid it out for him, “If you do well, surely you will be accepted. And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Hmm…

Proverbs 13:12 says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”  And often as artists we are not able to be doing exactly what we want in the way we want or as much as we want.  For a myriad of reasons.  Sometimes it’s that something stands in our way (lack of skill, lack of discipline, lack of opportunity, persons or groups who will not allow or don’t want our art, etc) and sometimes it’s God standing in the way telling us to wait.  The Bible tells about a lot of people who had to wait – Noah (to get off the ark), Israel (to get into the Promised Land), Abraham & Sarah (to have a baby), Job (to hear from God) and so on!  And often we don’t understand it.  What’s the point in waiting?

Perhaps obedience.

Faithfulness.

Stewardship.

Because it’s really not about me. It’s not about my great abilities, or lack thereof.  It’s not about what God gave someone else and didn’t give me.  It’s not about being unfulfilled or disappointed or being put on hold.

It’s about stewardship, faithfulness and obedience to God… with what he’s given… in what he’s commanded…

Because ultimately, God is sovereign.  And generous.  And gracious.  And good.  And created us and knows us and redeems us and calls us.  And we can be content in that.

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So I’ve been reading Heart of the Artist by Rory Noland (that’s my “arts and mime” related book of the moment, in case you’re wondering why I’m reading several at once).

It’s been great so far (I think I’m about half way through).  Each week I read a chapter and I think it’s the best and most needed (for me to read) yet!  And that happened again today. But today’s chapter was so good that I wanted to share brief excerpts of it.  Things I needed to hear and I think others could, too.  There’s a part especially relevant if I ever have (or ever do) ask for your feedback on a mime or story or something of mine.

Good quotes:

Sometimes those of us with artistic temperaments get defensive when we’re criticized. We can be overly sensitive, and we let the least little thing hurt us.

In effort to protect our self-esteem, we open ourselves up to something more damaging than a bruised ego, and that’s deception. Believe me, being deceived about your abilities is far worse than knowing and accepting your strengths and weaknesses.

Because [we artists are] going to pick up a lot of things [that others might not even notice], we need to be careful that we don’t pick up something that’s not really there. Our intuition is not infallible.

If you’re taking something personally but are not sure it was meant to be taken that way, check it out.

To be vulnerable is a price every performer pays… You pour your heart and soul into creating something, and you hold it protectively in your hands. When it comes time to show it to the world, you open your hands up slowly, hoping no one will kill your brainchild before it has a chance to become something. Because art is such a personal thing, it’s difficult for us to separate ourselves from our work.

And here are some words about offering feedback.  Most of these are edited down and paraphrased.

What makes criticism constructive is the way it’s delivered. If it’s not offered in a loving way, it can do more harm than good.

  1. Give your overall reaction first.  If your overall reaction is that it was good or great, say that before pointing out any flaws you found.  Often, we take for granted that the person knows it was great or we fail to say that aloud simply because it doesn’t seem specific enough.  But “remember, to the artist who’s excited about what the or she is working on and seeks your opinion, your first words represent your overall reaction.”
  2. Try to say something positive and let positive words be your first.  Give feedback in a way that shows love and respect and treats the person with dignity.  Mention strengths before weaknesses.
  3. Acknowledge the hard work and effort that was put into something even if it failed.  They did not work to fail.  “Most people have no idea who many hours an artist has invested in a performance or in a work.”
  4. Avoid hyperboles and negative comparisons.  Don’t use hyperboles even in a positive sense.  Avoid any uses of “that was the best,” “that was the absolute worst,” and the like.  Also, don’t emphasize something by comparing negatively to something else.  His example was calling a piece of music “warmed-over Tchaikovsky.”
  5. Be honest.  Don’t be warm-fuzzy and fluffy and make things up or exaggerate.  Be honest, but give the truth with love.  And don’t be trite.

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I believe!

Is it weird that I didn’t even get into the Bible reading portion of my devos today before God started speaking to me?

Last year I was following the daily offices, morning, midday and evening.  And I’m not strictly doing that this year, but as I was coming to my devotional time with my mind already in a thousand places, I began to use the opening prayer of the daily office as a way to focus my thoughts on God.  And recently I’ve been trying to consider it rather than simply reciting it.

To whom shall we go?
You have the words of eternal life,
and we have believed and have come to know
that You are the Holy One of God.

We have believed and have come to know…

Those words have been sticking out to me for weeks now.  Mostly, I think, because I’ve been in John’s writings for my devotional times and John uses the word “believe” more than any other gospel writer.  In his gospel and in his letters.

And a week or so ago, wondering what John really meant when he used that word over and over and over again, I looked it up in the Greek.  I was surprised – and rather excited – to find that for John (and in general) the word is much deeper than what we in America currently tend to think of or mean by it.

Really, even in our own dictionaries the word is deeper.  But we tend to use it as only a rational word.  Intellectual consent.  Believe is something the mind does.  Or sometimes the heart does.  But we tend to speak of it as one and not the other.

But belief involves the whole person.  It is not simply a rational thought or a heartfelt hope in something.  To believe is to be persuaded of.  To place confidence in.  To trust.  If you believe in something, you’re all in.  Just like a sky diver believes in his parachute.

So this morning as I pondered this “we have believed” part of the prayer, my mind was taken to another Bible verse about belief.

I do believe.  Help my unbelief!

Mark 9:24

This guy isn’t asking Jesus for help making a rational consent.  Or a heartfelt hope.  More than likely, he has one or the other already – and he is asking for help fully placing his confidence and trust in Jesus.

That verse from Mark has meant a great deal to me for the past, oh, decade or so.  It has become a cry of my own heart in many respects.  And in the past few years God has been working in me on these trust issues of mine and continually asking me to trust him more and more….

And here the two collide.

We have believed and have come to know…

I believe!  Help my unbelief!

Lord, help me to believe you and believe in you.  Fully.  With my heart, mind, soul and strength to place confidence and trust in you.  You.

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Hebrews 13

So gonna do this quick over lunch so I don’t forget.

Because you know how sometimes you get so familiar with Bible verses that they get separated in your mind from their original context?  Especially verses which you hear quoted by themselves more often than you hear them in a passage… or verses that you’ve memorized but then forgotten the context over time?

And then suddenly you see them in context and you are wonder-struck?

That happened to me this morning.  When I got to work I sat down to do morning prayers with The Virtual Abbey.  (It’s a wonderful start to any day!)  And I was praying through the prayer, which often includes some scripture to meditate on.

Today it was from Hebrews 13.

Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said,
“Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.”
So we say with confidence,
“The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can man do to me?”
Now, I know and can quote “I will never leave you nor forsake you” – I could even tell you it’s from Hebrews (though there it is being quoted from Deuteronomy).  But the verse prior to it is what struck me.
Keep your lives free from the love of money.
Be content with what you have.

Why?  Because God will never leave nor forsake us.  He is the source of all we truly need and He is the source of our contentment!

I never knew that the “I will never leave nor forsake you” quote in Hebrews began with a because.

And that’s something to ponder.

Don’t love money.

Be content.

Because God is with us.

He is our All in All.

And to repeat a favorite quote of mine:

If there is one thing I do not want, it is to end up before the throne of the Lamb of God, my hands so tightly clutching the burnt tatters of rags, ashamed to admit that He who is All in All was not made all in my own estimation.

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