At My Table

As always, something I posted on Facebook started a ruckus.  I congratulated Minnesota on it’s same-sex marriage legislation.

Oh the horror! A Christian embracing sin!

Yes, it’s what I do. I walk around all day every day trying to figure out how I can disrupt the Good Christian’s walk. I come up with schemes and plans that make Bible-beaters cringe.  I try to find ways to get them to lecture me and quote Scripture to me.

Sigh.

It got me to thinking, would Christ have dined at my table?

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The Pharisees of Christ’s day are today’s Christians who walk around acting as if they are better than the rest. It goes something like this: “Love the sinner, hate the sin.”  (find that in the Bible, wouldja please?)  What that says to people is: I am better than you. I do not have to acknowledge that I, too, am a sinner and that Christ has completely forgiven me. I am better than you therefore I will point out your sin and pretend I love you when I really don’t because I wouldn’t be caught anywhere near your filth, because I’m better than you.

I’d tell you people who would argue with me to read your Bibles, but that a moot point.  Because you probably do read bits and pieces of it. What you’re lacking is proximity to Jesus.

The Pharisees read the texts, too. Wore the right clothes. Said the right words. Studied. Regurgitated. And yet, did Christ dine at their table? Or did He throw off their money-changing tables with fierceness?

The Pharisees did not want to be close to Jesus. They wanted to tell him what a Messiah really should’ve been like.

If you want to go after a group of people sinning, how about the Christians who are getting divorced? The Christians who are prideful? The Christians who are lying constantly?  These things:

Here are six things God hates,
and one more that he loathes with a passion:

eyes that are arrogant,
a tongue that lies,
hands that murder the innocent,
a heart that hatches evil plots,
feet that race down a wicked track,
a mouth that lies under oath,
a troublemaker in the family.

Why go after unbelievers with your rules and regulations and cries of, “Sinner!!”

Why not get the plank out of your own eye before picking the speck out of someone else’s?

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.

It’s just sick to me the way these “Christians” walk around with their noses in the air, looking down on everyone, judging them, condemning them, telling them how to live and oh by the way–come to Jesus you pathetic, disgusting, vile, sinner, you. He will love you.

Because, yeah, that’s the way to show someone the love of Christ pouring from your very soul that He saved.

At my table are the misfits. (the sinners in case you don’t understand the reference, me being the chief sinner.)

And you perfect Christians can just keep bashing me.

2012 {year of grace}

After praying intentionally about a word to guide my year, God gave me the word “grace.”  I knew it wouldn’t be easy because I am not the most grace-giving person. Not by a long shot. (the year before was “believe” and the previous three years the same word surfaced over and over: “simplify.”)

I had been thinking to myself what a bad year 2012 was. Maybe it was just difficult to process? Because looking back, it was a pretty exciting and overwhelming year.  I was sick for a good portion of this year, but thankfully feel like I’m on the road to recovery.

I learned a lot about (perceived) friendships, letting go of negative things, spirit-driven friendships, listening to God, obeying God, trusting God, and God’s amazing grace.  I think I worked really hard on my creativity and am humbled at the opportunitities I’ve had to share the fruits of my labor. Which makes me so full of joy and peace and love…it’s almost inconceivable.  And that makes me think that God’s biggest lesson in grace was the hard and difficult work I did (not just physical work, but mental work) is rewarded by the hard-to-fathom peace, joy, and love that comes in the form of others appreciating what I do.

Walking through 2012 with “grace” as my guide, I realized grace isn’t just something I give, it’s something I receive daily. Not just from God but from people I share this life with.  Seems pretty simple, but sometimes I don’t see the simple things (thus three years of the word simplfy! LOL)

I hope I’ll learn to give grace as well as those in my life have given it to me.

 

 

January

  • invited to do my first solo art exhibition (not jut one show, but two in two different cities!)
  • Spent 6 straight weeks, 12+ hours a day,  creating 30 new paintings for the show.

February

March

    • “Grace Undone” my first solo exhibition of my career opened at the Hammond Art Center
    • I turned 40

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April

  • Started private art lessons with Justin Vining
  • Planted a teeny, tiny garden, that turned out to be phenomenal!

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May

  • helped facilitate our youth group’s Disciple Now weekend. This was one of the highlights of the year, seeing so many kids so in love with Jesus.
  • Taught my first Visual Prayer workshop at a conference (Mo*con, Indianapolis, IN)

June

  • dad nearly died on the same day mom did two years previous, but miraculously recovered.
  • The reason for the March-May fast became more clear.
  • Started painting and drawing lessons at the South Bend Art Museum

July

    • ended Visual Prayer monthly workshops after 2 years
    • One year later. Lessons learned after Phil being fired and being forced to a house and city we hadn’t chosen.
    • Friends Angie and Stan Poole visited from Texas, hadn’t seen my dear Angie since 2006!
    • Started to see a major improvement in my painting/drawing skills after several months of lessons

Boot

August

  • Forced to leave our church after our pastor and youth pastor moved on to jobs with the state and a pastor from the past reared his ugly head again.
  • kicked off my professional photography career, it had only been a hobby until this year
  • First ever street art show  (Miller Beach, IN)

September

    • went completely gluten free
    • Taught my first out-of-state Visual Prayer workshop (Creative Soul, Grayslake, IL)
    • completed SBC church planting “basic training”
    • Second street art show of the year (South Bend, IN)
    • Second solo art exhibition of my career (Cedar Lake, IN)

Done!!!!!!

  • Third street art show of the year (Chesterton, IN)

October

  • Zane turned 13
  • Phil was hired at Con-way and started 13 weeks of management training, found out that it’s likely we’ll have to relocate.

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November

  • “Limitless” tattoo!! (which will be my word for the decade. My 40’s will be Limitless!!)
Limitless tattoo
  • dad was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer of the throat with a huge tumor wrapped around his carotid and jugular. We didn’t think he’d make it to the end of 2012.

December

  • dad survived his simultaneous radiation and chemo treatments!! Doctors are now talking long-term remission!!
  • We are definitely relocating, yet we still don’t know where we’re going!

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Prune and Grow

Being pruned = violent pain.  It really does.  Being grafted = more pain.

In my garden are 4 basil plants.  Daily, I pick the tops off so they don’t go to seed too quickly, so they bush out and produce more leaves.  The basil plants aren’t really feeling a whole lot of pain and the plant thrives because I do this easy pruning often.

But take an apple tree that hasn’t been pruned in years?  You can’t just start whacking off branches either.  The best time to prune a fruit tree is in the winter. If you prune in the summer, you’ll likely kill the tree.  There are certain branches that are better cut off than others.   Winter seems like such a harsh time to prune, but it’s definitely the best time if you want your tree to produce the greatest amount of fruit.

When I looked at the date this morning, I knew I had to write something and I’ve been staring at a blank screen and reading posts from last year.  Gumby-God Pretenders–written about people who are fake, who pretend, who manipulate the truth.  Which brought up The Tree is Known–which is about being pruned from a corrupt tree and God grafting me into His vine. Then onto Storming. It was storming in our lives, I have a history of storming full force into the things God puts before me…and he wanted me to stop.

to be still.

He fed my OCD…he let me clean.  I disposed of garbage (physically, mentally, emotionally.)

He’s been pruning and healing for so long now.  And the pain has been violent.  It really has.

I feel like last July was winter in our lives. Phil was fired, we had to move to a vacant land, he got a new job–one that has kept him away from our family, stretched our budget so thin it’s been uncomfortable, and at the same time I feel like I was stretched, pruned, challenged, spiritually attacked, tested, tried, laid bare, and now?

How *do* I feel right now?  Earlier today, I said, “I have ANTICIPATION bubbling up inside of me like a shaken can of soda.”

God has used this past year prune me–to graft me into His will.

It is said that grafting a wild grape into a pure vine will change the wild grape.  Grafting means the pure vine is cut at the trunk (and the trunk has to bleed out, so that its pressure doesn’t force the new vine out,) the new vine and the trunk must have internal contact, otherwise the vine being grafted will die.  Both must be cut.  The cuts must be sealed and then the new vine is joined and takes nourishment.  For a time, the grafting union is extremely fragile,  especially as new shoots are growing, but when healed, you can’t tell the grafting occurred.

If I had to guess where I am today…

I would say that the healing is well along and you’d probably have to look hard to see where the cuts were.

Crying in my Coffee

She wrote this 

and my hard, cynical soul melted to tears

i arrived first, to our chalet on the lake

the sky was angry. twisting. blowing. yelling.

the management of the property was just as angry. accusatory. mean.

 

and i started to get angry.

i didn’t yell, but it was boiling inside

right under the surface

being alone

the distrust, the defenses, the walls that are built.

and then a gentle soul ushered me out of the office, away from the angry woman inside.

 

she apologized for her superior’s rudeness and assured me, it was not my fault.

i accepted. her apology. the key to our chalet. that hurt people hurt other people.

i didn’t even stop at the chalet, I went straight for the shore

knowing the beauty of the chaos of the storm would move quickly

and i had to capture it

(i never stopped to think it would be symbolic)

(until now)

The being alone, the storm, the chaos and the angry surrounding me. swirling around me. (trying to bring me down?) I went back to the chalet and sat. listened to the rain. felt the cool air rush through the open windows.

quiet for hours

and when she showed up, it was like welcoming my long-time friend. we hugged and chatted and got down to the serious stuff quickly. then sat in silence again creating Visual Prayers. a comforting silence of understanding.

then the two came. the two i met in a blizzard are now here with me in the blazing heat. (not just fair weather friends. no. not at all.)

 four song birds chirping from afar, finally flying toward the same landing spot for one night

 

indeed. we landed.

grounded.

we broke bread

we shared wine

and stories and tears and laughter. so much laughter.

the storms gave way

to the healing rain

and the healing rain softens my hard, cynical soul

to the point that i cry in my coffee as i understand the healing God is pouring down over me. He brings me around to the pain inflicted on me, spirals around it and shows me the truth.

 

 

 as quick as we landed

we had to fly again. each of us going a different direction.

but like birds migrating, we will  fly together again

the seasons change so quick

the sun sets so fast

we don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. we’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.

Every Thursday we share the harvest of intentional living

by capturing a glimpse of the bigger picture

through a simple moment.

This week, we’re sharing life at Jade’s.

Better Than I Used To Be

Been listening to this song quite a bit.

These lines in particular:

I know how to hold a grudge
I can send a bridge up in smoke
And I can’t count the people I’ve let down, the hearts I’ve broke

You ain’t gotta dig too deep
If you wanna find some dirt on me
I’m learning who you’ve been
Ain’t who you’ve got to be

You can dig up dirt on me and truly, it’s not hard. I’m an open book. I typically spill all the dirt here anyway. So you can go back and find that I haven’t always been nice. I’m probably not too kind these days, but I’m better than I used to be.

And I’m learning who I’ve been ain’t who I gotta be.

And isn’t that what grace is?

Six months into this year of Grace and all I can say for sure is I’m better than I used to be.  And I’m trying harder than I ever have. I’m gonna mess up. (I ain’t no angel. I still gotta few more dances with the devil.)

The lyrics of this song hit home. Maybe because Tim Mcgraw is my age and I get what he’s saying. I’m guessing the younger crowd won’t get this song, but for me it really hits home.  For the next half of this year and on I hope I can focus on the gettin’ better.  The diamond under the dust.

I’ve pinned a lot of demons to the ground
I’ve got a few old habits left
There’s one or two I might need you to help me get
Standin in the rain so long has left me with a little rust
But put some faith in me
And someday you’ll see
There’s a diamond under all this dust

I’m trying to hold fewer grudges, burn less bridges. Give more grace.

It always comes down to grace.

 

Unfinished

Sometimes I’m brutally honest here.  Other times, I have to be vague. It’s not that I want to keep secrets, but some things just aren’t meant for a public forum.

In my last entry (about fasting) I said, “I feel like I’ve still got more to learn from this experience and it feels very unfinished.  I don’t even know what that part means yet.”

What I found out is that God was totally not finished.  As a matter of fact, so much has went down in the 3 weeks since I wrote that post that even if I tried to document all of it, I wouldn’t be able to.  I wanted to try to flesh-out the biggest lesson I just learned.  The word “bold” keeps coming to mind.  A friend of mine and his brother did this little video and it keeps making its way to the front of my head as I write today.

There was a time many years ago that I was facing a giant trial in my life.  When I pray during these situations, I try to give ample “listen time” and if in that prayer time a verse comes to mind, I cling to that throughout the trial. I consider that to be God speaking to me.  So. In this particular time, God gave me the verse Exodus 14:14 which says,

Be quiet, the Lord will fight this for you.

I took it literally (and am so glad I did!) and I was silent in ways I could have never been without Christ.

God delivered me, humbled me, taught me lessons, and is still teaching me.

but.

have you ever had that one thing? that “thorn in your flesh” that seems to never be removed?  Yeah. that.

The thorn {I have to admit, I really thought it was plucked out} poked me and man–did it ever sting. And worse, it took me by surprise.  Through my shock, I went to God and he gave me another verse. The one that says “for such a time as this.” It’s in Esther.  I looked it up.  It’s Esther 4:14  (similar to the 14:14 of Exodus, huh?) The beginning of this verse is what got me:

For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

“Be quiet”  then and now, “If you keep silent at this time…” pretty straightforward.  And this is where the “bold” comes in.

Bold:  Showing an ability to take risks; confident and courageous.

 

What I had to do wasn’t for the world to see. It goes back to the Old Testament “Obedience is better than sacrifice.”  In New Testament terms, I think that would translate, “Obedience is better than repentance.”  One of the reasons I listed for fasting was “obedience” another was “trust.”  This situation God put me in was a test in both.  I chose to take the risk, the risk to obey, and I believe I did so with courage and in confidence.  God whispered instruction into my ear with the verse from Esther and like her, I fasted then I obeyed. I didn’t save a nation as Esther did (and that’s ok) and she knew why she was fasting, I didn’t.

Esther’s risk was much bigger than mine.  I get it.  But victories come in all shapes and sizes.  The obedience, the bold step in the path of following God was the same though.  And in the end, I didn’t “step into stupid” as my beloved pastor would say. I did the next right thing which always carries with it a sense of peace. And instead of looking eleventy-billion steps ahead, I prayed, I listened, I obeyed. (rinse. repeat.)  Each next thing that came about, I prayed, listened, and obeyed.

I sit here tonight wondering if I can make this habit.  Instead of worrying, can I just pray, listen, and obey? What if–hold your hats because this is radical–what if God was actually in control and directed my every step?

This situation (I’m guessing) is far from over. And the new thing:  I’m not worried about it.

I learned that even though I thought I understood why I was fasting, I had no clue (until He revealed it.)  I learned that there’s a time to zip my lip and a time to stand up and be bold and all of it is under God’s direction. I have learned to listen and obey.

What is God whispering in your ear?

Are you bold enough to obey?