somehow I know tonight that you work in me,
even as I moan, weary of my sin disease.
I hate my flesh that loves all that is in the world;
the twin lusts and the exalting pride destroy me.
though a child of my own Father, I feel a bastard
and see the sickening resemblance of heart and mind
to the dark master in my past. I am weakness.
am I an invalid in the house of my Father?
why is victory wrung, and defeat commonplace?
Yesterday my family all gathered together for the first time in two years. It was to be a weekend full of quiet reunion and just living together for a few rare days. Then came in one son and brother, with heaviness and pain showing in his face and his step; yes, it was a lingering health issue we all knew about- it was easy to forget his pain because it was so daily and familiar. Honestly, when I saw it was worse, I wished it away and got a little angry. This, of all days to be weighed down by sickness! when we were all in one place for once and just trying to have a party before reality set in again.
And then my Daddy came in and gathered us all together. “We need to pray,” he said, “because when one member hurts we all hurt.” With his Bible trembling in his rough hands, he read from psalm 91, wavering but always coming back with strength. And he prayed. The often absent brother prayed too, full of love and boldness and coming to the throne for his brother. And I wept… because here I found meaning in the pain that I had wished would go away. It wrapped us all closer together in the arms of God and in such a deep family love that I could feel it, and I remembered that He does all things well.
Today after one of our art finals, the teacher gave us what he called “his speech.” Basically, he told us that we had to have enough of a passion for art to really, really work at it, because it wouldn’t be easy. We had to know what we wanted and be good at it, or, in his words, “the art world will chew you up and spit you out.” He rather scolded some of us for not giving our best or working at a college level. After he said “have a good summer” and we left, some of the students were happy that they wouldn’t have to see that teacher for three months… I think we were all intimidated and a little scared that we wouldn’t make it through the rest of our college career. Maybe some of them will change their major to business admin or humanities. Me? I am scared to death and have added a bunch of things to my “to do in order to be a professional artist” list. I do know, however, that God has made me an artist. I know how it feels to be so overwhelmed by beauty, that it results in a sort of sickness- a throbbing pain in the heart. I know the pressure of pent up self-expression and also the impatience of putting it all aside. I will not give up… I will give it my best!
I’ve been feeling the absence of love for others in my heart, and need this truth…
1. Joy is love enjoying.
2. Peace is love resting.
3. Patience (or longsuffering) is love waiting.
4. Kindness is love reacting.
5. Goodness is love choosing.
6. Faithfulness is love keeping its word.
7. Gentleness is love being able to empathize.
8. Self control is love being in charge.
-Dr. Charles Stanley, http://www.intouch.org
“On a day in the autumn, I saw a prairie eagle mortally wounded by a rifle shot. His eye still gleamed like a circle of light. Then he slowly turned his head, and gave one more searching and longing look at the sky. He had often swept those starry spaces with his wonderful wings. The beautiful sky was the home of his heart. It was the eagle’s domain. A thousand times he had exploited there his splendid strength. In those far away heights be had played with the lightnings, and raced with the winds, and now, so far away from home, the eagle lay dying, done to the death, because for once he forgot and flew too low. The soul is that eagle. This is not its home. It must not lose the skyward look. We must keep faith, we must keep hope, we must keep courage, we must keep Christ. We would better creep away from the battlefield at once if we are not going to be brave. There is no time for the soul to stampede. Keep the skyward look, my soul; keep the skyward look!”
-Streams in the Desert
This morning I found out that out of sheer stupidity, I lost a scholarship. Misunderstandings & missed deadlines removed the possibility of a very much needed payment on my tuition bill. It made me so mad I cried… I walked along to my dorm and said, “Why do I have to fight so hard to do your will, God? You know, I could do something easier.” Both my parents and I have been working for years to make college possible, and it hurts me to see how much they are sacrificing for plane tickets, laundry, care packages, clothes… etc. I am paying for tuition with my own blood, sweat, and tears, and I just lost half of what I would make all summer long.
Then I read the Psalm that was open on my browser. “Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love, but rebelled… they soon forgot his works; they did not wait for his counsel.” I’m not going to pretend that everything is fine now, but I do know that God has brought me to my third year of college with no debt- He will certainly be faithful for the last two and a half years. Through the fire & the storm, I pray that I will still be able to look up and praise Him for His goodness and His wonderful works in my life. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the LORD!” [Ps. 106:48]
I was so excited about today that I kept waking up, afraid I would miss my alarm. I get to be with horses on a ranch with cool people & cowboys and barns! And then we arrived at a perfect slum of a farm with broken down buildings, shaggy horses with their bones sticking out, and wet dogs everywhere. There was red mud all over and no cool people in sight… no picturesque barns, no sprawling ranch house. Just mud and animals. I stood in my expensive sneakers and clean jeans, wanting to prove myself – and I did, being the farm girl that I am. I carried hay and stacked wood with the best of them, and was not afraid of the dogs or the beetles or the ants; all the while thinking that I had expected to be ministered to, really, with a picnic lunch maybe, and pretty barns and groomed horses. Instead I find a place that really needs me and what I have to give. I find that ministry is all about giving, as Christ gave, coming down to do the dirty work that no one else wanted to do. Even though I keep telling myself I’m crazy, I will go back to the sweat and the dirt… if only because they won’t ask for my help, but they really need it. here, I can serve as He served.
Yesterday God gave me one of those revealing, uncomfortable experiences of showing me who I really am. He sent it by my accountability partner: “How do you think God wants you to fulfill your part of the Great Commission?” I wasn’t sure exactly, but knew I hadn’t been doing it.
And in the tossing that followed in my bunk in the dorm, God showed me that my entire life had been a quest for solitude and entertainment. Selfishness vs. love… comfort vs. the Great Commission … and always I end up on the wrong side. Is this how I give service to my Master? I have been trampling underfoot one of His two great commandments.
Where do I go from here? I know that I can’t wait until I magically start loving people. This love is not an emotion, but a choice to love as God loved when He let His hands and feet be driven through with spikes. It’s radical and sacrificial and comes from a heart fully surrendered to God… dear God, only You can do this in me.
Sometimes when I feel myself slipping back to the place of heaviness, of obligation and of earth, I need to go somewhere quiet and remember. I need to remember that I am not held by anyone else’s preferences, expectations, or convictions; I find my code of living in God’s Word alone. And also, I am not a permanent resident of earth… God and I have big plans for real life, after I die. I can live free and in the overwhelming love of God. I will not be held back by things that I can feel, taste, and touch! I need to find the truth again that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
I came in to this highly esteemed university with my portfolio, marched into the head of the art department’s office, and fully expected him to be as impressed as my family & friends were. I mean, hadn’t everybody praised my art to the skies when I posted it to facebook?
Then the very kind department head said that I definitely had something to build on, and generally treated me much more kindly than I deserved. My first formal training in art began, and I floundered in the new methods and tried not to scoff at drawing boxes and spheres. Deep down, I admitted that I wasn’t really very good at doing this by their methods- but after all, I really am a phenomenon, aren’t I?
When I started to throw off the ropes & life preservers of careful tightness in my art, when I got rid of my measuring ruler and my reference photos and only drew from life, everything changed. I felt the thrill of correct proportions and accurate values… knowing where the features go… memorizing the skeleton and the muscles with my humble pencil… and I thought, I really don’t know anything after all, but I will never stop learning.