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 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 realizethere 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 seen 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.

 

Introducing Create 61

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Worship outside at our very first Mosaic gathering Jan 2014 with guest worship leader and dear friend Kat Bull.

This has been a long time in coming.  Some days I forget I often see years down the pike.  YEARS.  In some ways this vision has been unfolding since 2006 when I landed in Africa.

I didn’t have a name for it then.  Only ministries birthed from the reality God places inside our hearts can truly impact eternity.  It has to be real in me first before it can become real through me to anyone else.

In January 2014, a small group of us at Create 61 launched our first Mosaic creative worship gathering right under the trees like in Africa.  It was humbling to see what God did there. It gave us a glimpse of what lies ahead.

This is such a new chapter and such an old chapter of my journey all at the same time.  I got my start leading creative worship events through dance/drama and all the way back in my undergrad days voiced the heart of starting a church of networked micro-communities to one of my professors.  I’ll never forget her looking me right in eye and asking me, “So what is stopping you?”

Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.

Create 61 is the culmination of a 20 year journey.  Twenty years of being trained and refined. Twenty years of formally being in “ministry” leadership.  Twenty years of blunders and learning curves, of the extravagant grace and incredible kindness of God that has literally taken me on journey that has crisscrossed 5 continents, over 30 nations and brought me full circle to the city of my birth and childhood. And I know this journey in Him is still just getting started.

God is doing something new here in Jacksonville and there are so many who are hearing it rumble.  I am honored and grateful to have a part to play in what God wants to release in this region and this nation.  So I want to properly introduce you to Create 61 and invite you to be a part of it’s unfolding.

Create 61 {C61} is an organic church network of missional micro-community groups {affectionately known as MCGs} with a vision:

  1. To reach and disciple unreached marginalized populaces in our city and region.
  2. To partner with like-hearted churches and organizations in our region to help equip and empower healthy leaders and authentic communities that are walking in the fullness of God’s Kingdom and are experientially prepared for urban and/or cross cultural missions.

We very intentionally do not plan gatherings or major events on Sunday mornings because we want to create space for those joining us to also attend a Sunday morning church expression if they so desire.  Or to visit a variety of churches.  Or to use Sunday morning for family time or outreach.

Starting the first Saturday in Sept we will have a micro-community that is reading the gospel of John together the 1st & 3rd Saturday of the month 9:30-11am. {I’ll be posting more information soon.}  The alternate Saturdays will have other events, outreaches, community building days or just time off.  We hope to have at least one Mosaic gathering this fall as well.  And I will be meeting with leaders of churches who are interested in finding out more and possibly connecting with us relationally.

Part of Create’s vision is not just to be a church of networked micro-communities doing it’s own thing. I believe the local church {as in the local expression of the Body of Christ} is the agent of transformation of communities, cities and nations.  Thus we want to offer the unique strengths and gifts God has given us to strengthen, encourage and serve the larger Body of Christ in our area, especially in developing leadership structures that support authentic community, creativity from heaven, cross-cultural missions engagement and truly healthy emerging leaders walking in the fullness of God’s Kingdom {especially as described in Isaiah 61}.

SO much is happening. I will link and share the events here as well as over on our website Create61.com.

Read in more detail about:

If you have a church or a ministry organization in the greater NE Florida region and any of this sounds even remotely interesting, I would really love to connect with you, get to know your heart and begin to see what God might be doing with it all.  It is important to me that this remains vitally connected to what God is already doing in our region and that best happens through building relationships.  It would mean so much to hear from you!  You can connect with me here. {Yes, the form comes directly to me personally. ;-) }

As always you can also get in touch with me on my Facebook page here.  It is a privilege to hear your hearts and journey with you.

 

The Now & Not Yet

night-1It rained much of the day.  It blew and blustered and crackled and poured. I blustered with it just a bit.

Then Jesus wrote His love in storm clouds sprawled across a sunset sky.

Some of you might remember how my former dentist electrified my back teeth and the saga that unfolded thereafter.  I don’t talk about it much any more. But the incident fried my facial nerve and threw me into “permanent” nerve damage resulting in ATN {atypical trigeminal neuralgia} of a variety there is no treatment for, surgical or otherwise.

But no condition in Jesus is ever permanent and impossibility is simply a canvas for the miraculous.

Until that miraculous happens, I’m daily trusting Him through what many medical professionals consider “the most severe form of chronic pain known in medical practice.” Imagine migraine meets cluster headache meets 3-4 teeth abscessing meet you just scalded your mouth with way too hot coffee and they all throw a party on one side of your face at the same time.

Early on in trying to find answers I had one doctor tell me that pain isn’t real, it is just an electrical impulse to the brain.  Right.  What NOT to say to a patient hurting.  Some things can be accurate factually but be far from true, kind or helpful.

I’m not going to wax poetic about all the great life lessons I’m learning because the brave, bold truth is it is simply a lesson in my own frailty.  Unless God gives me grace and strength in inordinate amounts, I am not able to get much done some days.  I just limped through two of them.

We live in fallen world and dentists who make mistakes and then refuse to correct them are part of the mess every single one of us walk through each and every day.

But I refuse to be defined by what should and sometimes does disable.

God’s Kingdom is a now and a not yet reality.  And in between the now and the not yet lies the place of mystery. 

Why did one child I prayed for in Africa get instantly healed and the next die?

I. Don’t. Know.  Full stop.

But this I do know:

If I don’t trust Jesus in the mystery, I limit the display of His majesty.  I must be willing to trust Him with what I do not understand without turning it into a commentary on His character or a measuring line for my faith. 

Faith and trust must happen in the places where we don’t see and we don’t understand or they happen not at all.

Early in my time in South Sudan, I had a visitor who told me the reason children on base were getting sick was because I lacked faith as a leader.  The same person told me that until I had enough faith to get my own creative miracle, I wouldn’t see anyone else get healed.  Ahem, another what not to say.  But this time it was not true or even factual.

Sweet Jesus. I’m so grateful He agreed with neither point and that I got to see many, many people healed and transformed.

The measure of our faith is not the tangible result  it produces but the ever-present reality of an always good, always there all-powerful God.

In my seven years working in Africa, the deaf heard and the blind saw and hospital wards emptied and villages got saved and food was multiplied and I buried children and I lost leaders to cancer and sickness and I am still deaf in my left ear and I got malaria again and again and yes it cost me my health.

God can restore it all in nanosecond.  However I don’t want my story to be God is good because He heals and restores.  My story spilled out in lines on a screen and shouted into cyberspace is God is good before any healing is seen, before any restoration is realized.

God is good regardless of what I see or don’t see.  I stake my life on His goodness.

Jesus died on a cross to secure for us healing and wholeness and all we will ever need and then He rose again to leave death an empty grave.

Because of the cross and the stone rolled away and His life laid down and my price fully paid, I refuse to be defined by that which disables and I refuse to define God by my present circumstance. 

I will not reduce my theology to the level of my experience if the level of my experience is less than the all of Who He is.

Healing is real. Restoration is real.  The miraculous is real. Revival is real. It is all for today.  It is for me and for you, for our streets and our cities and our nation. Every promise is Yes and Amen in Jesus.  The moments I choose by grace to trust in Him when I don’t understand, I give Him a gift that I can only give Him in between the now and the not yet of His Kingdom.

I wait in the in between watching Him paint the evening skies with a storm.

In what storm are you trusting Him to paint an ending full of beauty and grace?  Share your heart over in our brave Facebook community.