Even the Nights Are Better

DSC_1119 (2)

Another painted prayer from last weekend.  As I met with friends who also feel an urge to pray for our city, our valley and for our country, I kept hearing the phrase, Even the nights are better.

We talked about our experiences. Most of us are familiar with night seasons. Some in our group wake during the night hearing a call to pray for someone or something that burdens their hearts.  For others, struggles with pain of all sorts seem more intense at night; loneliness, loss, and physical pain arise in the darkness. Circumstances that confront us with the unknown can take us to a place where the façade of being in control impresses no one. But everyone agreed, the night season has its beauty.

In that quietness, in that place void of daytime distractions, we can learn to enter another type of rest — that is, when we stop protesting long enough to hear to the still small voice that whispers comfort.

While the band played and the people sang, I picked up my brush and quickly painted the picture in my mind. It reminded me of the beauty of the night season when the Lover of my soul, my Keeper, my True Hope comforts me with his songs and when I can respond to him with my own.

Yes, Lord. In your presence, even the nights are better.

 

Yet all day long God’s promises of love pour over me.
Through the night I sing his songs,
for my prayer to God has become my life…

So I say to my soul,
“Don’t be discouraged. Don’t be disturbed.
For I know my God will break through for me.”
Then I’ll have plenty of reasons to praise him all over again.
Yes, living before his face is my saving grace!

Psalm 42:8, 11 TPT

Stepping into Freedom

painting arbeit set captives free ch IMG_3960

Have you ever assembled your paints and brushes and canvas, or sharpened your carving knife and fondled that perfect piece of wood, or pulled the new fabric out of the shopping bag, and then asked yourself the question, “What should I make?”

For me, deciding on subject matter is the hardest part of creativity. I collect potential. It’s easier to spend time imagining possibilities and gathering materials in arts and craft stores, or stationery stores, or fabric stores, or writing app stores, than it is to decide what I want to say. Always there is the fear deep down somewhere, What if it’s not good enough? What if I waste time and materials and create disappointment that doesn’t measure up to what other people are doing?

Sometimes I need a nudge to just do it already. Painting as a form of creative worship moves me out of my comfort zone. Way out of my comfort zone. People are watching. Time is limited. I’m an amateur. I don’t know what I’m doing.

The musicians at most Sunday services play for less than thirty minutes. In the circle my friends have invited me to hang out in, a weekend conference with a guest speaker provides three sessions with a total of about one and a half hours in which to paint something.

I don’t even have as much time trying to decide what to paint as I usually spend trying to pick a Netflix show. Sometimes I have ideas before I get there. Sometimes nothing.

This past weekend, as I prayed about it while the band did their sound check, I remembered a picture I had in my head as I listened to people worshiping God one morning recently. I saw a pretty scene with an inviting path. Then it was as though the camera pulled back and I realized my point of view was behind barbed wire. An gate opened. When I looked up I saw the words written over many prison camps in Europe in World War II: Arbeit macht frei. Work makes free.

But I saw them in reverse. I saw them from the point of view of someone inside the prison camp who knew too much, someone who knew those words were not true. Arbeit macht frei was a ruse meant to placate people who were anything but frei.  I understood. I had worked and worked for years and still didn’t feel good enough — and definitely not free.

I asked the Lord what this was about. I understood it was an invitation to step out of the captivity of believing the lie that if we work hard enough, if we prove ourselves invaluable to God, if we perform well enough to impress him, he will notice us and accept us into his kingdom.

In my vision the gates were open, not only for me, but for everyone who responds to his call to come away with him. We are free to step out of imprisoning thoughts of having to earn his love. We are free to step into all the beauty he has for us. We are free to walk with him now, knowing the Creator of the Universe as the Lover of Our Souls.

So this is what I painted, imperfect as it is. I choose to step into freedom. I choose to step into all he has for me. Jesus Christ sets the captives free.

Then we cried out, “Lord, help us! Rescue us!” And he did!
His light broke through the darkness and
he led us out in freedom from death’s dark shadow
and snapped every one of our chains.
So lift your hands and give thanks to God for his marvelous kindness
and for his miracles of mercy for those he loves!
For he smashed through heavy prison doors and
shattered the steel bars that held us back, just to set us free!

Psalm 107: 13-16 TPT

Wide-eyed

boy pool ball painting ch IMG_5038

When I painted this portrait of our son at about seven years old I never imagined sitting with him beside a pool watching his own son who is now about the same age. Children are wonderful gifts and grandchildren doubly so. They teach us so much about the eagerness to learn and discover.

Jesus called a little one to his side and said to them, “Learn this well: Unless you dramatically change your way of thinking and become teachable, and learn about heaven’s kingdom realm with the wide-eyed wonder of a child, you will never be able to enter in.”

(Matthew 18:2,3 TPT)

May we never lose our wonder.

Thy Dross to Consume, Thy Gold to Refine

Painting: Consuming Fire,  acrylic on canvas

“When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply;

The flame shall not harm thee; I only design

Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.

The soul that on Jesus doth lean for repose,

I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;

That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

(from “How Firm a Foundation” by John Keene)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire. (Hebrews  12:28,29)

Night Vision

Painting: Night Vision, acrylic on canvas

This poem goes with the painting “Night Vision” of a woman dreaming on a crystal sea under a night sky full of lights. It uses the imagery of the lovers in the Song of Solomon and also makes reference to the story in the book of Hosea of a man who keeps rescuing his unfaithful wife. Ishi is the old Hebrew word for husband/saviour/hero. Through the prophet Hosea God tells his people there will come a time when they will call him Ishi and not Baali (master). The ancient Hebraic written symbols for seer are a wall, a cutting implement and an eye. For kindness they are thorns, a cutting implement, and a door.
Night Vision

Come away with me,
her lover calls.
He peers through the lattice;
he tosses pebbles against her frosty window.
Arise, my love, my chosen one
and come, come away with me.

The winter is past; the sleet is gone; the flowers lift their heads.
The season for singing has come.
Leave your compass on the desk;I am the way.
Our secret place lies in the rock’s cleft.

She stares through the glass darkly.
Ice shatters her view.
Where are you, Beloved? Where are you?

She rises, lifts the bar
and crosses the threshold on freshly washed feet.
Behind her ears, the white wolf,
descended from the city’s seven mountains,
accusing
cursing
threatening
yelps as his howls
meet the linen fence.
With her newborn eye she cuts a hole
through the thinned place in the thorn wall
and climbs into greater truth.

A pillar of lilies awaits her.
With one look you have ravished my heart, he whispers.
See? I rend the curtain of heaven
and like a gazelle leap the hills for you.

Let us swim in the sky, fly under the sea.
Come dance with me, my bride.
We are like children spinning amid the galaxies’ swirling skirts.
Together, let us puzzle the pieces
adding breadth and width and depth and height
until you sit at my side,
the earth our footstool.
Your eyes will hear.
Your ears will see.
Your fingertips will taste and know that I am good,
and in the language of the Spirit
write of colors you’ve never seen before.

Her lips move gently with the mouth of sleepers.
Ishi, my breath, she breathes.
Ishi,  my hero.
Yeshua

Yeshua

Storms may come, and storms may go

“Recovery”

Acrylic on panel

When I saw this tree beside a dirt road in the country I knew I had to paint it. The main trunk, struck by some calamity, had died, yet the tree was not dead. A branch, still nurtured by the roots, became the new tree.

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. (Proverbs 13:12)

Sometimes we think our dreams are dead. Sometimes it looks like all hope is gone. Sometimes it’s our own fault and the dream looks as though it has died as a result of our own foolishness. Sometimes health fails, spouses leave, businesses crumble, loved ones die. I don’t blame God for nasty things that happen in our lives. But I trust him to turn them into something good.

We live in a fallen world where the consequences of a single sin can have a domino effect that goes on for generations. Innocence lost is innocence lost whether it is the result of our own choices or someone elses. But God can restore and build on the very things that cause us so much pain. He’s so good at using our disastrous circumstances that we may think He set them up. Not really. Jesus Christ didn’t come to condemn; he came to save. He came to set us free.

I painted a storm behind the tree. Is it approaching or leaving? Storms may come and storms may go; I leave that decision to the viewer.

The words of an Amy Grant song came to mind as I worked on this. I wonder just how many storms it will take until I finally know Jesus Christ has promised to never leave me or forsake me?

Arms of Love

Lord I’m really glad You’re here.
I hope you feel the same when You see all my fear,
And how I fail,
I fall sometimes.
It’s hard to walk on shifting sand.
I miss the rock, and find there’s nowhere left to stand;
I start to cry.
Lord, please help me raise my hands so You can pick me up.
Hold me close,
Hold me tighter.

I have found a place where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s held throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In Your arms of love.

Storms will come and storms will go.
Wonder just how many storms it takes until
I finally know
You’re here always.
Even when my skies are far from gray,
I can stay;
Teach me to stay there,

In the place I’ve found where I can hide.
It’s safe inside
Your arms of love.
Like a child who’s held throughout a storm,
You keep me warm
In Your arms of love.

In Him there is no fear.
No fear!

The Dream Lives

Painted prayer: The Dream Lives

(Click on photo for larger version)

This painting was for a woman with a broken heart who, at the time, faced going through life without a partner.

She chose to respond by staying up all night and thanking God for every single thing she could think of.

God responded by healing her wounds and sending her a wonderful husband (in a most unlikely way) who has blessed her beyond anything she ever dreamed.

God also healed her of infertility and has given them beautiful children.

God is good.

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
    and saves the crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18