Big Group Jesus

Mark Hall wrote a great book that I got at the 2017 Creation Festival called “Your Own Jesus”, and I am finally picking up speed and finishing it. Okay, so I am halfway through, not near the end, but that is further than I was in 2017. Everything he wrote is hitting me at just the right moment taking the time to dive into it now though.

This year at Creation, I saw such an exciting preacher, and I was so moved, I thought, how do I hang onto this fire when I leave? I do not want to leave it at this festival. I need to be living this, because other people need to be feeling this, and if I am the only one they run into who knows this great feeling, well then I better be on fire still, overflowing and ready to tell them why I feel so good. So when my husband said he wanted to study Revelation then invited me to listen to the audio book I got for him about it on a long car drive, I said okay. Then, I signed up for an online Bible study that wrapped up in the last full week in September. I just ordered myself a book by the same writer who wrote the Bible study I was a part of to continue this growth, to keep this fire lit, because as Mark Hall says in his book, we have to do things to keep that feeling awake outside of a concert.

In a concert, we can ride on the emotions of the music and those around us, and then he said sometimes by the time we get to the parking lot, the feeling is fading. We experience what he calls “Big Group Jesus”, but we never experience our own Jesus. I sort of had this understanding when walking out of Creation, but it is so encouraging to read it from his perspective with his clever labels attached to these feelings.

If you feel like you’ve just been taking part in “Big Group Jesus”, then I invite you to check out Romans 12 that reminds us that we are a living sacrifice and by offering ourselves, we worship God. 

Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

When we are surrounded by dim lighting, beautiful music, hands raised, it feels good, and it is good to worship like that with others; to find our own Jesus, we have to be willing to give ourselves up outside of the sanctuary, concert hall, or music festival. This can make us uncomfortable to think of giving up our own time, after all, so often in this hectic world, every second is precious. 

But what if before you had breakfast, you read a devotional? It by no means is this kind of fasting we read about in Daniel where for three weeks he ate no “choice” food and it isn’t like Jesus fasting for forty days and forty nights, but it is a start in saying, “My day starts out with  you, God, what do you want to fill me up with?” Or maybe an easy way to start to hand over your time is using commute time for prayer and worship. 

If you are looking for ways to be a blazing fire, then I suggest reading “Your Own Jesus”. Or maybe your fire is completely out, and you are just looking for a spark again, I still suggest that book. But, I also invite you to pray and ask God to show you where you can give time to him so that you can discover this worship outside of Sundays or a concert. He wants our hearts, but at the end of the day, it is up to us to give them because we have free will. Music helps me dance into a better place, spirit, or mood so often, so I will leave you with this tune about shining like heaven on earth!

 

Rest

I flew into the rest of my weekend after I wrote my last post. I literally flew off of my longboard, onto the hard pavement, hitting first my knee, followed by a slide on my right side. The flying on the longboard stands out less against the memory of falling and sliding. I stood up quickly, annoyed I skinned my left tricep very much, and then I looked at my knee. I shudder at the picture that comes up in my mind. 

Shane was still at work, that was why I decided, after accomplishing my list of things to do, that I would ride my longboard. It was the first time I had gotten it out since last summer, and some pride in me said that I could indeed ride it to Rin’s house and back before Shane got home before our date. I had not considered the hill before her home, and there I met the pavement with a leap and a tumble. It was fortunately on this hill where a neighbors house is situated and this neighbor happened to be sitting on her porch with a biker who had been peddling by and took a break. So two angels, one a nurse, and the other ready and willing to take orders and help out, happened to be right on the scene and knew what to do till Shane’s dad arrived to drive me to the hospital.

So now, here I am, my right leg wrapped and velcroed into a brace propped up on a camp stool while I sit in a camp chair on our back porch. 

I can tell you exactly what got me into this situation, but it is still aggravating to think of how hurt my knee is. I shouldn’t bend it for two weeks due to the huge gash full of seven stitches and twenty-seven staples. Do you know how hard it is for me to sit still? Alas, I can count it a blessing it wasn’t worse. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to sit still. As Rin put it, there must be some reason God wanted you to rest. 

Her comment made me look into verses about rest, because I have been doing a lot of that. I enjoy doing it on my back porch the most because I see our Orchard Oriole families, we have two, the yellow warblers, hummingbirds, cat birds, mocking birds, bluejays, countless red wing black birds and robins, and of course my little phoebe whose nest is just over my shoulder. It really has been a joy to just observe God’s nature, and on a morning like this morning where I was calling in a gobbler, interact with it despite my limitations. 

This certain, classic Psalm stood out to me though, because of the non-passive word, make.  He makes me lie down in green pastures. Why would God make me lie down when I have so much to do and I have this break before teaching summer workshops? Though I believe in signs, I am not sure a very obvious one is about to literally be written in the sky answering my question as to why right now must I rest. I just have to sit, be patient, and keep my eyes open and alert like I do when looking for all my different birds. 

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake.”

Ironic I would’ve just ordered the book, and got about the day before my accident, “When God Doesn’t Make Sense” by Dr James Dobson. Again, I am not unaware of what got me into this situation, and I am thankful it isn’t worse, but the why right now at the beginning of my summer has echoed in my head. This book draws stories and examples from far worse accidents that have happened in christians lives, and dares to ask why. It doesn’t skim over the question of, “Why, God?” with verses like Romans 8:28 where it says all things work together for good. Dr James Dobson really pulls out good examples of people in the Bible with big why’s, and verses besides Romans 8:28. 

One verse the book brought up felt appropriate to my injury, as our nurse neighbor, gingerly, yet assertively held my knee together with a motherly touch. Then again, when my mom drove down on Monday and kept me company and helped around the house while I was confined mainly to the couch. 

Isaiah 66:13 “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you: and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” 

As I continue to watch the birds and finish some lyric videos for mu mom’s vacation Bible school, I actually want to leave some pictures of a bird that I can’t seem to identify. So for all you bird watchers out there, help me out, this grey bird has no other markings besides a light belly and red skin around its eye and a curved bill. I am in western Pennsylvania, so a curved bill thrasher doesn’t make sense, but that is what it reminds me of.

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Discovering Radiance

Living starts in-between your ears. It was something like this that my hometown pastor said during Sundays message. He was saying how sometimes before a week even begins, the list of things that must be done can be overwhelming and make you feel far busier or more rushed than you even really are. With my last post being about devotions or meditating on God’s word, for me through sketching, reading various books and making connections, I had to share my thoughts on “living between your own ears”.

In the evening, after that morning message, I was reading “Slow Stitch: Mindful and Contemplative Textile Art” by Claire Wellesley-Smith. I loved how she cited other artists and writers who, whether directly or not, seemed to have this call for the movement of Slow Art. We are surrounded by all these tools these days that are supposed to speed up processes of everything, from cooking to contacting people, but somewhere in that mindfulness has been lost.

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It has taken me twenty-eight years to sort of barely just figure out a little bit better how my own mind works. As an artist, introvert is often a blanket term tossed around, and I am comfortable with that term. Essentially, for me, it is being comfortable with solitude, being alone with out being lonely. In reading Claire’s book, I couldn’t help but connect my solitude, and working in it, with mindfulness. Taking the time to think through a project, a drawing, a painting, a series, gives me a chance to engage with it, sort things out beyond the project and get things sorted out between my ears. The author says something about the long amount of time it takes for her to regain concentration after engaging with external digital media, and I couldn’t agree more, as it can make me completely lose momentum in a drawing or painting.

Beyond my art, connecting more with the idea of lists or schedules like the pastor was pointing out, it can be so distracting to live fast. We can see twenty people’s opinion on a news story on Twitter in under twenty seconds, we can scroll through hundreds of pictures in less than a minute on Instagram, and we can start a group message with people all over the United States and get dozens of replies with in a matter of seconds. Actions that used to take a whole day, like to research or write to someone or about something now can be done in less than fifteen minutes. On this overload of media and images and messages, it can be hard to leave room to take things slow, to meditate on good things, or to be mindful.

Pslam 34:5 Those who look to him are radiant,
    and their faces shall never be ashamed.

This Psalm is how pastor finished his message, and I love it. In the context of today, we have all seen that person in distress from their hectic schedule, trying to keep up, they look exhausted. On the flip side, someone who has just taken the time to get a massage, or a weekend trip, or something, anything that is very deliberately un-rushed, always seem to glow, do they not? Well, what if every day, we took the time to meditate on Him, find that time to be mindful, make deliberate choices, wouldn’t we daily glow?

Start between your ears. Quiet your mind. Put the cellphone away. Pull out a pencil, a needle and thread, a paintbrush or a book and take it slow. You might just find yourself beaming!

 

Different Kind of Devotions

Daily devotions can elicit a feeling that “we forgot to do our homework” feeling can’t it? Never-mind forgetting it, when we hear daily devotions, sometimes we can even think, “I didn’t even bring my homework home to do.” We leave it at church or in the car when we turn off the ignition, stopping the flow of praise from the speakers, and walk into our homes completely disconnected from our Father.IMG_4145.JPG

I like to read, in fact, I have a really appetizing spring reading list I am picking through at the moment, and only one carry-over book from my December reading list, “The Meaning of Marriage” by Timothy Keller. I just can’t fly through that particular book, after reading pages of really good truths, I find I need to sit back and think about it. I don’t want to finish that particular book just for the sake of finishing it.

I’m beginning to notice that that’s how devotions always come across to me. You have to do it to get it done. I even heard the analogy once about tuning your orchestra at the end of a performance, and you wouldn’t do that would you? So tune up before the day gets started! And though that is a great analogy, sometimes it sets in and sets me up to rush through the tuning because “I have to get it done”.

In reality, I really enjoy the time it takes me to get to work and devoting that car ride to a time for prayer. Prayer has been a topic I have been reading a lot about lately, and by lately, I mean beginning right before Shane and I were Shane and I till now. It began with “God Whispers” by Margaret Feinberg, “The Daniel Prayer: Prayer That Moves Heaven and Changes Nations” by Anne Graham Lotz, and “The Mercy Prayer” by Robert Gelinas. Another book, “Why Keep Praying?: When You Don’t See Results” by Robert Morris is always floating around in my laptop bag, and I get it out from time to time for a quick “ah-ha” moment before it ends up hiding away again for weeks on end. Finally, I am slowly getting into the more devotionally minded “Before Amen” by Max Lucado, a book from my Grandma Hayes, a fan of Max Lucado.

Maybe I’ll get more into how my brain works in another post, but until then, as I was sketching this morning, listening to hymns picked with a banjo and strummed with a guitar, I realized how I get into my devotions is probably vastly different than half a dozen other people. While drawing, I was making connections with yesterday’s sermon, an art method book I was reading, and scripture that tied the two together. That is when I thought about how drawing can often bring me to a place of meditation and focus in a way not many other things can.

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I don’t have to follow someone else’s formula of waking up early, timing out a prayer that is sufficient enough before I read the next chapter in a book meant for devotions. I can do it my way, as long as I am doing it.

Psalm 119:97 Oh how I love your law!
    It is my meditation all the day.
98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies,
    for it is ever with me.
99 I have more understanding than all my teachers,
    for your testimonies are my meditation.