A Creative Way to Pray

CE09.13-6Here I am again splashing this heart of mine again, split wide open on a page.  Because brave is real and brave is see-through.

This last year I’ve walked one step at a time, one breath at a time rising above the storm by grace and grace alone.  The ways I prayed before somehow have been stripped away by the gales ripping at the edges of my heart.

I couldn’t pray the way I had before.  I just couldn’t.  But I couldn’t not pray either.

My face throbbing, my heart broken, my mind scrambled, my body beaten up, my emotions somewhere between raging, raw and numb… “soaking prayer” only meant soaking through a box of tissue.  All the ways I’ve heard and sensed and saw Jesus before have been somehow dim and faint, if not totally disconnected.

But I’ve been in this kind of wilderness before.  And I know He is closer than the air I breathe even if everything in and around me screams the opposite.  I know the wilderness is a beautiful place of establishing something deeper in me than could ever be planted in a greenhouse where all is easy and comfortable.  And so I thank Him for the wilderness times.

I found when I couldn’t pray in words, I could pray in paint and color and image.  I could sit with Jesus in my studio and create. And little by little my heart began to come back to life.

My drafting table became an altar to offer the broken pieces of my life on, color saying what words could not. 

It wasn’t about the end product at all, it was about the process, about meeting Him in the process.  We so often focus on product when God is far more concerned with our hearts simply being with Him on the journey.

Some of you reading may be thinking, well I just don’t hear God period.

But beloved you can and I’d venture to say you do hear Him, probably far more than you realize.

As God has been opening this new chapter, I’ve just started a site called Sketchbook Prayers.   There I’ll be sharing images from my prayer and devotional journals as our first micro-community with Create 61 Creative Prayer Journals through the book of John together.  I’ll also be opening the community aspect up for specific submissions if you decide to join us in Creative Prayer Journaling and have a page or two you’d like to share for possible posting.

sbpce-1If you are in the Jacksonville area, you a very welcome to join us in person on the 1st & 3rd Saturdays starting Oct 4.  But you can join us from anywhere online.  I’ll be posting more information and direct links later this week.

Stepping out can be a scary thing.  Blank pages and unknown terrain can be intimidating.  Trust me I get it.  This is a journey that has come full circle for me, as prayer journaling is how Jesus trained me as a teenager to interact with His voice and Scripture. It is my joy to be able to share with you something so central to my walk with Jesus.

You don’t have to be an artist or even consider yourself creative. You don’t have to be able to draw or sketch or paint. All you have to be is hungry for more of Jesus.  And be open to meet with Him in the text, in the moment, in the silence, in the struggles, in the triumphs.  Might that be you?

Then, please, pull up a chair and settle in.

Sketchbookprayers.com logo

Creative Prayer Journaling  as a method is my original modern twist on the ancient Celtic contemplative practice of infusing creativity into the way they interacted with God.  Creative Prayer Journaling uses visual journaling techniques and marries them with contemplative postures of prayer. It makes space and invites you to gaze at, interact with, process, reflect, enjoy, see with new eyes, receive, gain insight, experience and behold the beauty of Jesus in Scripture, in prayer and in life.

I am available to come and lead retreats {this makes for a wonderful creative weekend event!}. I’m starting to give workshops on Creative Prayer Journaling in the North Florida area this year and can customize them to serve your church, ministry, team/small group.  I’m also traveling again starting in 2015 on a limited basis beyond Florida as my health permits.

If any of this is of interest, please please let me hear from you.  Just drop me a line here, tell me what’s on your heart and we’ll see what God does!  Always and ever grateful for each of you friends.  Always.

You are loved-

Michele

Dancing the Will of the Father

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“Then Jesus answered and said to them, “ Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.” John 5:19

I am starting my third week of grad school. Assignments are piling high and it would be easy to be overwhelmed by it all, caught in the spin of a wave pounding hard on the shore.  Right on the shorelines of old dreams becoming new.

But the waves are only invitations to dance.

I am dreaming…  Dreaming of the trash mounds I stood on and preached from in Africa being transformed by rivers from heaven, dreaming of a world where children are loved and cherished and held and fed and inspired to grow into everything they are created for, dreaming of sustainable models of business and of raising up leaders who are truly healthy from the inside out.

For one class project, I have been interviewing amazing leaders in my life who use coaching in various ways in their leadership roles.  In one conversation, my interviewee said what I heard as: dancing the will of the Father.  When I clarified, he actually said: advancing the will of the Father.  But the two, they are one in the same breath.

Jesus, He was dancing the will of the Father, only doing what He saw His Father doing.  Just that.  Not one move more or one less.

As I stand looking up at a mountain of things needing doing, papers to write, books to read, to do lists to accomplish and an even bigger mountain of questions regarding the future: how do I find paying clients? Pay bills? Rebuild my ministry support base? Build a business outreach platform that truly adds transformational value to those I serve? Who to connect with? Praying in the right relationships. How to share and market and over-deliver and create and study and rest and enjoy and serve and get healthy and learn and juggle all that needs to find the right balance.  How do I find my footing right in the middle of the spin of the waves of this new season?

I am reminded. Again.  It is less about a plan and more about a dance.  I don’t have to figure it all out.  Even if I could, it would be a sad second to the beauty He is weaving in this love-dance on the earth.  Nothing has changed at all.  Except the trash heaps here are a little more attractive and the poverty more polished.

But missions is still about romance. More so than ever.  All fruitfulness comes from intimacy with Him.

And I simply need to continue letting Jesus lead this dance and together with Him only do what I see our Father doing.  This alone is freedom.  This alone is success.  This alone is where I belong and where all questions bow before the light of His face.

Taking more time to listen and watch than figure and plan.  More still, less stress.  More quiet, less noise.  Intentional. Focused.  Abandoned. Embraced. Free.

How to Wear Your Scars

scars-4I’m going to start something brave here.

I often let you see my lens, but not my paintbrush.  How is it that paint spilled out on paper seems so much more vulnerable than snapshots of pixelated time?

I was on a favorite stock photography site looking for an image for this post and it hit me.  I should be creating more of what I see not simply finding something someone else has created that approximates it.  Creating for it’s own sake has fallen somewhere in the less-than-urgent crack between grad school and ministry.

But creating is at the heart of what makes me bravely who I am.

Then there are the scars.  Not the faded ones from a childhood of 23 surgeries, but the raw, hidden ones that rip at heart and hope and life itself.

We all have them.  Jesus has them. He sweated blood as His heart was breaking.  His scars where love pierced Him through tell us this… Scars remind us of where we have been.  They do not have to dictate where we are going. 

Love pierced the hands and feet of Jesus.  He wears the scars of love, not of nails.  And if we choose to walk in His love, we too will have scars.  Betrayal will come. Pain will come.  Being misunderstood, accused and cursed at.  It all rips open wounds in our soul.

scars-2But what if those ripped, torn places become the thin place and out of brokenness spills beauty and new life?

scars-7What if our scars remind of us that God’s goodness is forever?  What if scars remind us of His power even in the storm?  Of His faithfulness and that even if everyone we love walked away, He never would?

What if from our scars grew vineyards and orchards of fruitfulness and all things working together for good really means all things?

scars-3I don’t believe God ever plans our harm.  Ever.

But I do have a radical, fundamental belief in His ultimate power to redeem it all.  Every loss that colors our world.  Every pain that shades our experience.  Every betrayal that casts shadows on our journey.  Every time choosing Him, choosing love costs us a price few will ever understand, let alone see.  He sees. He knows. He weeps the tears that we cannot cry.

scars-6And He fuses those scars, weaving them with gold spilled from eternity right into our fractured, messy now. The gold glints and shimmers in the light of His gaze.

Suddenly that which has broken us becomes a place of beauty forged right in the fire of our struggle and we step in to the fellowship of His love-scars we could not have entered into any other way.  There every scar is precious.

There gold is spun from our scarred stories flung hard into the wide open arms of Grace.

The Power of Being a Friend

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2009, Eastern Equatoria, South Sudan

When I left the red soil of South Sudan, I left part of my heart planted in it.

I thought I would never again see that part of my heart come alive.  In the photo above our team had just traveled 4 very long days to reach an obscure village in an unstable region of South Sudan.  I’ll never forget the sudden wave of God’s Spirit as we arrived and I knew our pastor there and I needed to preach.  Almost every single person wanted to know Jesus.

I don’t know if I will ever get a chance to return to South Sudan.  But I am who I am today because of the countless things my Sudanese family taught me as they welcomed me into their homes and their nation.  I miss them so, so much.

Now, I’m in a new season.  One so new I feel I have barely touched the edges of what lies ahead.

I’ve been spending time with my sweet new friends from Congo and I am always amazed how simple God’s love truly is.  It isn’t complicated to walk with Jesus.  You just walk.  You simply live so filled you spill Him.

Imagine losing everything you have ever owned and being deposited in rural China where you can’t speak, understand or read and having to navigate a totally foreign culture where nothing is familiar and you have no home country to return to.  That gives a fairly accurate picture of what many refugees go through and the kind of a learning curve they have to embrace.

I think they are heroes.  To bravely dive in to a foreign landscape.  I know I wouldn’t have survived without my friends and the mamas in South Sudan who taught me their culture and bits of language and how to use the scary kerosene stove… who took me in and treated me as family and showed me what community really looks like.

I can honestly say I was never lonely.  Not once in seven years.

I pray to be as good a friend to my new adopted Congolese family as so many from Africa are to me.  Something as simple as introducing them to how to open a can using the American can machete i.e. can opener is the difference between them being able to enjoy what has been stocked in their cabinets and not.  Tomorrow it is cookie making 101 and hearing all about the kids first week in school!

Do you realize there are international populaces right at our doorstep? Some are immigrants, some refugees, some educated, some right from the bush and the nations are right here.  And what they need most are friends who will love them and model God’s love in the daily practicalities of life. 

I’m in the middle of raising support {both prayer and financial} through my sending church to allow me to focus full time on the ministries God is radically opening up in this season.  Here is just a little glimpse of the threads that are being woven into a beautiful tapestry of missions mobilization and equipping:

  • As of today I will be serving {volunteer mission work, hence the need for a support team} in a variety of capacities with World Relief here in Jacksonville.  I have been invited to come along side to help with teaching orientation for new refugees, to serve in the capacity of a “creative director” of sorts helping to come up with creative ways for them to help share the stories of what God is doing, to be a cross-cultural mentor for volunteers who need help learning to navigate different cultures and most of all I get love precious people from the nations.
  • You’ve heard me share about Create 61. I will be further developing our School of Indigenous Leadership and eventually be implementing parts of it in conjunction with partner host churches, school and organizations.  Also we will be partnering with like- hearted churches to come along side to help them start missional micro-communities and train leaders for missions/urban/cross-cultural leadership.
  • I continue to mentor and coach missionaries, to write and speak.
  • I continue to develop the business end of what I do to be a vehicle of cultural engagement, relationship building and reaching out to a much broader community than I would have access to without it.

Because I encouraged most of my supporters who had a heart for the work I started in Africa to continue to support the work there, I transitioned home with a very small fraction of my personal support base.

So I am basically starting over a bit and am having to trust Jesus for some really big practical breakthroughs that are needed, yesterday if possible.  According to my timeline at least. Hah.

Please know there is no pressure here ever, not even a shred.  I just want to invite you to become part of my support team in this new season and ask you to talk to Jesus about the invitation.  Please know that no prayer or financial seed is “small”.  Every little bit is huge.  Find out how to give or find out more information here.

I so appreciate each and every one of you.  It is one of my greatest joys to continue to journey with you into all that God has.

Bravely Yours- Michele

Simple Doesn’t Mean Cheap

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Found on Pinterest

Sometimes it is easy to assume.

If you are living simply, of course it must mean you are living on the cheap.

While I am ALL for cost effective and I do do a happy dance when I can find what I need at 50-75% off, simple does not imply a poverty mindset. Not at all.

In fact intentional simplicity it is the exact opposite of a poverty mindset.

A poverty mindset says I cannot afford {practically speaking that might be a present fact} what I really want so I will fill the space that “want” creates with 10 lower grade versions there of.  The irony of it all is when you add up over 1-3 years the money spent on the lower cost versions that break more frequently and are really not what you want usually the total will cost more than buying the one you wanted to begin with.

Lower price point does not necessarily equal real lower cost or true greater value.

A wealth mindset says I will invest in the one very good quality item I really want/need and enjoy one that will last {instead of ten that won’t}.  If I can’t buy it now, I’ll save to buy it later.  Of course if you know a semi-annual sale is around the corner. Ahem. Get it on sale.

Two years ago when I began to stock my art studio here I bought lots of different variations of watercolors to try out.  Now I have a stack of scholastic grade paints lying around that I never use.  I have 3-4 professional grade palettes I love.  So I am packing up ALL my unused paints to simplify my workspace. Some sets will be stored for when I give in person classes.  Some new sets will be put on e-bay to resell.

I am only keeping in my corner studio exactly what I love to create with.  And the same process will be eventually by applied to my closets and my drawers and my nooks.

Poverty says I’m afraid of not having in the future so I need to stockpile resources in the present.  Wealth says I know I am loved and taken care of by Jesus so I can be satisfied with just what I need for today because I know the One Who holds all my tomorrows.

Poverty and wealth are first states of mind before they ever are reflected in our bank balances.  {This power point is a fascinating comparison between the mindsets of poverty, middle class and wealth.}

My goal in simplifying is to live truly wealthy.  In all the ways that matter most.