Oh the Humanity (Bible Week…Day 5)

Isaiah.  Ezekiel.  Daniel.

Today we read a lot of the prophetic works.

Oh the humanity.

The Bible speaks not only of what will happen, but of what is happening to the Hebrew people at the time the book is written.  And the people who surrounded Israel were e-vil.  Evil.

The Jewish people practically sold themselves to them.  They did the same things they did.  They worshiped their gods.  This is not like going to R rated movies.  This is like…wicked.  Purely wicked things.  Think Nazi.  Think worse.

If you know me at all, you know I know of injustice that would make your blood run cold.  Still, as I’m listening to these things recounted…and as I’m thinking, “This really happened.  It’s not figurative.”…and as I’m realizing how absolutely unjust the injustice was when Isaiah was written…I’m realizing that there really has been change in the world.

The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. Isaiah 9:2

Like, I’ve always thought the world was going to hell in a handbasket (literally) but God’s grace through the cross, the blessing for the world that is promised to come through the Jewish people, really did work.  The kingdom of God, here and now, in human hearts throughout history, really has made a difference.

And I started to weep.

In my heart I saw the earth, filled with light and life.  So I drew it.

I finished my drawing somewhere around Habakkuk 2:14…

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

For the earth will be filled With the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, As the waters cover the sea.

And some more blurry pictures for ya…

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Wind and Fire (Bible Week…Day 4)

They heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace.

Jeremiah 8:11

The words caught my ear quickly as they passed.  I have trouble following along in the text, so I had no idea where we actually were in the book.  I only knew that it was Jeremiah.  I scribbled the words in my notebook.  Again at the end, a similar statement caught my ear, and so I scribbled 48:10.

Cursed be the one who does the LORD’S work negligently…

Words like “superficial” and “negligence” carry such a heavy weight as I consider my life’s purpose to come from Isaiah 61: “to heal the brokenhearted.”  Jeremiah’s life exemplifies my desire for this purpose to come from within.  His famous quote…

But if I say, “I will not remember Him Or speak anymore in His name,” Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire Shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. (20:9)

…contrasts starkly against the religious activity of the day, illustrating his continuous cry that God is more concerned with the heart issues.  As we are fond of saying around here, dealing with the root instead of the fruit.

Colors of the Temple: blue, purple, and scarlet

A bit of context for you: Jeremiah is written well after the “glory days” of the Jewish people, after things have been going very badly for hundreds of years, there is a brief season of restoration followed by devastating moral deterioration which lands the people in exile.  Jeremiah has the joyless task of warning the king and the people that the path they have chosen leads to destruction, begging them to choose God.

As we are listening to the books being read, and most of the other students are following along in their Bibles, I have my art supplies spread out on the floor in front of me.  My doodles began with fire and quickly changed to page after page of windblown trees.  I could almost hear wind rushing past my ears.

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Later in the day as we watched the Jeremiah movie, I noticed that they also used images of wind and fire over and over again in the film.  Even as I drew each tree, the lines reflected the story I was hearing.  I started the art to keep my hands busy so I could concentrate, but I the process of creating is helping me to engage the reading on a whole different level.

Reflecting on the experience as a whole, I know it is affecting me on so many different levels.  At one point in the afternoon, I felt this shift in my thinking…nothing specific I could describe…just a growing confidence in God, in His faithfulness and His ways.  It’s been really powerful, and I honestly believe it will change…is changing…my life.

I missed 1 & 2 Chronicles this evening, but hope to rest well and start on Proverbs and Isaiah tomorrow.  Two of my favorites.  I’m excited.

The Beauty of Questions

It all began with a rather raw and vulnerable question for God:

Do you want me bad enough to put me back together? Am I worth the time this takes?

Early last year this question, scrawled in my journal, sent me to explore an exercise my friend Tara (of Anam Cara Ministries) had sent to me.  It is fairly simple…

I come up with three questions: one for God, one for my heart, one for God and my heart.   I take three index cards and write one question per card, then turn the cards over and shuffle them.   Without looking at the questions, I tape them down to a scrap of paper or board.  Now comes the fun part: color!  I paint each card with whatever color or texture I feel like.  While the paint is drying I get to go through magazines and tear out pictures…whatever pictures I have a strong emotional reaction to, consonance or dissonance.  Then I arrange the pictures on the cards and glue my little collages together.

I try to forget about the question and focus on only the color and images while I am working.  The idea is to stay in the question instead of looking for answers.  When I finally get to turn the cards over and see which question goes with which picture, I find that I am learning more about myself and God, about my unspoken hopes and desires, and about faith.  Not every picture is an answer per se, but they do correspond.

The above question which started the whole process resulted in another question:

“Well, what if stuff happens again?”

God: Do you want me bad enough to put me back together?

Extracted from an insurance ad, the words positioned over clouds and beach-grass with a running shoe gave me the uneasy sense that this road would get harder before it got better.  I honestly did not know what to make of it.

Here I am, almost a year later, and I can tell you two things:  stuff happened again, and God wanted me enough to put me back together.

I have 20 little sets of these cards.  Questions from raw, hungry, almost desperate, sometimes timid, fearful, playful, hopeful, raw places in my soul…

…did I make the right choice?

…what if I never get this?  Will you still love me?

…did I let you down?

…what am I missing?

…what do you want to bring out in me this week?

…what  am I hoping for?

…am I worthy of you?

…what do I want?

…what do you want for me, God?

…how do I live well?

The questions are deeply personal, and although I have shared some very general ones, I can look at them and remember the ache,  sometimes confusion, and longing.  This evening I spent assembling the 20 sets of cards from 2010 into a book, and as I look at each collection of cards, the thing that stands out to me most is hope.

The exercise is a discipline of faith, being willing to trust God enough to let the question sit unanswered while I make pretty pictures.  Even asking the questions has taken a good measure of faith.  I have poured out all my doubt, fear, and misgivings into these questions, and without meaning to I have discovered what it means to live in hopeful expectancy.  I wonder if we realize just how interconnected fear and faith truly are.

Prophetic Painting

I have actually been doing “prophetic art” for years without realizing it.  God will speak in my heart, “Draw what you see.” and when the picture is done, He will speak to me through the art I just made.  The process is like prayer, and the final product speaks something in God’s heart that I need to know.  The last several weeks God has been speaking to me through color and texture.  I will try to get a better picture for the February Scrapbook, but I thought I would post the one I made tonight.  I called the file name “fire cocoon”.  🙂  I could tell you what it means, but it’s way more fun to hear what everyone else says first.

Images from Silence and Solitude

I took these pictures during our base silence and solitude time on Tuesday.  God was speaking to me about growing things…how silly climbing roses look with nothing to climb, but how much work it takes a gardener to train them along the fence.  I really love the pictures of the thorns.  They are so crazy and wild, all different sizes of thorns covering the branches.  I can’t so much explain it; I just love it.  Even the shattered rose hips, swollen with seed, everything about the wildness of a growing thing…the messy-ness of it all.

Messy.  Healing is messy.  So is love.  Beauty is messy.  So are most artistic things.  I’m okay with messy…and that is a gift.  So many Christians are not okay with messy.  We want things to fit neatly into the little boxes.  Of course, that is because we do not see as the Gardener sees.  God is the Bride-groom…the ultimate Husband.  Husband comes from the word husbandry, which means to garden.  So He tends to us in winter, spring, and harvest…growing things with a structure and order we do not understand.