Dream with Me

It’s 7:22am and the sky is lightening with the coming of the sun, invisible as it is, hidden behind the clouds on most wintry days. But on this morning, this day, as I don’t mind that invisibility, that absence. A misty fog blankets the park across the street from my house, making the stark, bare trees look like a faded painting and kissing the ground to blend in with the snow. It’s beautiful and it was completely unexpected.

God does some of his best artistic work in the mornings. That’s one reason the early mornings are my favorite time of day—especially the time of year when those mornings come earlier and earlier, filling hearts with the promise of growth, of green, of new things to come. Those days aren’t here quite yet, but so much brightness before daybreak—and before 7:30am—is a welcome sight.

I was going to include a photo, but some of God’s best work is better left to the imagination and the memory than to a camera.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating what it means to be an artist, an artist who’s a Christian. An artist who’s a writer. A writer who is called to, well, write. Write and serve. That is also what I’ve spending my “extra” time doing—that time I have left over from reducing my full-time hours as a writing instructor to part-time. I’ve been watching my instructor-me hours dwindle away, putting the best that I can into those 30 hours a week until they come to an end in the spring, and putting those other ten hours into reading, writing, journaling, and practicing (in private) being a writer. A servant-writer, one who uses her gifts to build up others, whether by writing herself or encouraging other artists to write and to create.

Can I tell you that I’m loving it? I’m loving the hours I’ve been able to spend reading about writing, reading about using the creativity God instilled in each of us to serve his kingdom and to serve him.

Can I also tell you that, sometimes, I’m afraid of it? Afraid of falling flat on my face, of disappointing my family through my efforts (and by family, I’m using both senses of the word—my earthly family and my church family). Afraid of not completing the work God has set aside for me (Ephesians 2:10).

But—but—I’m also excited. So excited to see what God will do. I’m someone who has always loved the excitement of anticipation, and the thought of knowing that God’s dreams are so much more than I could even expect or imagine (Ephesians 3:20) makes that anticipation even better. Because if I’m looking at life through his perspective? I can know, with certainty, that he won’t disappoint. Not that everything will be sunny and bright and full of singing and dancing like my favorite musicals, but knowing that whatever is to be is in God’s hands—that’s what is worth the anticipation.

As I was exploring this morning (reading about writing from a songwriter/author’s perspective), God sparked my imagination. In his book Adorning the Dark: Thoughts on Community, Calling, and the Mystery of Making, the author, Andrew Peterson, encouraged readers to practice the craft—to keep practicing, so that perhaps what we create will be used in ways and in hearts that we do not expect to touch. He used the example of a seventeenth-century poet whose work he read and cried over, and then wrote,

Maybe the song you’re writing is for one specific heartbroken soul who won’t be born for another four hundred years. Maybe you won’t meet him or her until the New Creation, and they’ll thank you for opening yourself up to public scrutiny, for striving to arrange the words just so, for learning about what makes for a good melody or tight phrasing. (142-143)

Songwriter, I am not. But a writer, yes. And as I read this, the thought of the future and the new creation hit me, and my imagination strayed into territory that I’ve been hovering around for weeks and months.

An old friend—Mike—used to berate me for speaking in leaps and bounds, and make me explain my train of thought before he would let me go on, and I think that may be appropriate here because my imagination took a giant leap with this one.

Writing and artistry and creativity and servanthood, for me, are wrapped up together in this thing I’ve come to see as God’s call on my life. I can look back and see how the paths I’ve taken have led me here, to where I am about to step out in faith into unknown territory of trusting God with my finances (and, tied in with that, my kids’ education) and my time to create something new, something he has planned just for me. Writers, though? We crave readers. It’s true. We want people to read what we write, and we want to make an impact (thanks, Martha) somehow, some way, even if it’s just a little one (but hopefully it’s a big one). In my case, I am praying and hoping that whatever I do with my writing, God will use it to make an impact in a lasting way, in a way that touches (and maybe even softens) hearts and souls. So the thought of something I write lasting 400 years or more to reach out and touch someone far in the future—that’s a wild thought. Unthinkable. Crazy unimaginable, and crazy thrilling at the same time. And then I thought, What if what I write lasts longer? For all of eternity?

And here’s the point, the dream. But it comes with a disclaimer, one that lets you know my only intent is to dream, and ask you to dream with me. I’m not a theologian and I’m sure there are several of them out there who would argue with what I am about to write, but I’d just like to share a What If with you and ask you to use your own imagination: What If?

What if what we create here on earth—our paintings, our drawings, our dances, our songs, our poetry, our writing—those we create with a listening ear, with fingers and hands and bodies and spirits that follow God’s Spirit into the artistic endeavor, are some of the treasures that Jesus encourages us to store up for ourselves in heaven (Matthew 6:20)? What if what’s waiting for me at home is the “best” of what I’ve written here on earth, not because it’s of the highest quality, but because its coauthor was guiding me in the writing? What if some of what makes it through the fire (1 Corinthians 3:13) without turning to ashes are my written words?

Recently, I combed through a chest of memories—treasures—and in it was a packet of materials my mom had saved—my earliest drawings, artwork, and stories. Some of them contained her hand-written notes, dates and descriptions of what they were meant to be. I know this was only a small selection of what I must have produced in my childhood, and I know that she spent hours curating collections that represented the most precious and best of my and my siblings’ work. Someday, Lord-willing, I’ll have the courage and time to sift through my own children’s work. I can imagine God doing the same for us.

In my journal this morning I wrote, “What if God, like a mother who loves to see her children develop and grow and is proud of them at every stage, is keeping some of these things for us—preserving them so that at some time he can take us through his treasure trove and tell us stories of what he loves about them, and us?”

And I imagined.

Rhonda, remember that woman who visited your second-grade class and taught you how to write haiku poetry? Remember how she praised your poem, and from that moment on, when you were being true to yourself and the calling I put on your life, you wanted to be a writer? I kept that poem because it was the first time you heard my whisper clearly, even though at the time you didn’t know it was me. Here it is. This poem that you wrote in second grade is precious.

And guess what else? Here is the woman who inspired you. I know that for you she has remained faceless and nameless for decades, but I’d like you to meet her. She faithfully carried and delivered my message for you. She, also, did her work well.

What if? What if you imagined? What if what we dare to create lasts longer than we dare to dream? Think about it, and if you will come along with me.

Dream with me.

God-Moments to Remember

Seven people around a table. Night fell, turning an inky black occasionally broken by the headlights of distant, passing cars outside the windows. Tears coursed down cheeks and laughter broke through smiling lips. Hearts broke and healing began, and through it all, God whispered.

God whispered love, in and to and through us.
God whispered release, unknotting old wounds from our heartstrings.
God whispered revelation, speaking to our hearts and spirits.
God whispered healing, sealing over tears in hearts and making them new.
God whispered inspiration, nudging us forward with his creativity.
God whispered friendship, bonding our spirits through his.
God whispered thanks, acknowledging our hearts desires to glorify him.
God whispered affirmation.
God whispered YES.

Sometimes, God grants us God-moments on earth.

Thursday night, around that table, was full of God-moments. What a blessing. What a blessing those moments were, and what a blessing each of you are in my life.

I believe God put us together and gave us those moments for a purpose. He planted seeds of love, of inspiration, of creativity in us to prepare us for what is to come. When God whispered to Elijah, he ministered to his spirit and then gave him his orders: Now GO (I Kings 19). Elijah’s orders were to go back. I think our orders, as a growing group of creatives (including those who couldn’t be with us that night) were spoken months ago and only reinforced that night: Go. Work together and use your talents, use your creativity, and make an impact. Do it for and with me.

Let’s do this!

Gift tag with the words “Make an impact” alongside a book with a photo of coffee mugs on the cover and a half-full coffee mug

And for all of you—the creatives I’ve met over the past year and those who were there Thursday night, I have a message and a prayer:

I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. For in him you have been enriched in every way … (I Corinthians 1:4-5)

I continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and giving joyful thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of his holy people in the kingdom of light. (Colossians 1:9-12)

❣️What an unusual post—it’s a very personal message to a very personal (and much narrower than usual) audience. But it’s also one I struggled over and soaked in prayer, and the message God whispered to my heart this afternoon. I trust that God will lead those who need this message—whether a part of Thursday night’s group, my larger creative group, or not—to reading it, and whisper his message to your hearts. I’m praying that he will grant you God moments, precious times with him in which he speaks and ministers to you and changes your hearts forever.

❣️For my creative groups past and present, you are my people. I can’t express enough how much I love each of you and am thankful for being even a small part of your lives. Martha, Charlie, Lani, Wendy, Quezia, David, Myriam, Marian, Valerie, Lori, Jean, Jon, Megan, Jeremiah, and Kelly—yes, I mean you! For those I haven’t yet met, I look forward to meeting you someday soon.

Front Porch Musings

This morning, in the pre-dawn hour, I sat on my front porch and looked and listened and wrote. I had a purpose, I had my coffee, and I had my phone’s flashlight to see my notebook when I needed it. My purpose was to complete a challenge in creativity by observing the creativity of the Creator. And when I was done? My soul could not help but to respond in worship, in song. (I’m hoping I didn’t wake my neighbor up.)

The challenge was from day two of Courageous Creative, a study I’m doing with a small group through my church. (For me, this is the continuation of a journey I started a year ago—that’s for another post, another time though.) The challenge was to go somewhere, observe God’s creation, and write using action verbs about what God has done in his acts as the Creator. I read the challenge last night and decided to wait for my favorite time of day and not to go far—my front porch was all I needed. And I bent the guidelines, using the action verbs for God’s creation as well as for him.

God met me there on my front porch, and it set the tone for the entire day: All day songs of his praise have been bursting from my heart, my lips. I’ll share what I wrote with you, and I would love it if you took up the challenge and shared it with me. This post won’t have any photos (it was too dark!), but so much imagery. I hope you enjoy God’s creation as it was this morning through my eyes, my words.

5:43 a.m.

The cool spring breeze
blows strands of hair against my cheek
gently tickling my neck

Rain drops fall singly, together
interrupting the joyful chaos of the birds’ morning song
(but not quite)
(they sing on through the rain)

A single cloud reflects light
but other clouds are there
now pouring out their offerings on the earth—
or are they crying?
Crying in bursts and fits
now sobbing,
soon slowing
trying to wash the earth clean before the new day begins.

The birds sing on
trying to awaken the dawn

The earth soaks in rain
yields its fresh, earthy scent
(smells like worms)

The moon is behind the clouds
smiling with its half face
poking through the holes in the clouds
and pointing the way to the sunrise yet to come.
It is what gives the single cloud(s) its brilliance.
The cloud tried to steal the moon’s light
masking it as its own
but could not compare to the moon
(which does not compare to the sun).

Tree limbs stand stark against the grey
grey of the morning
grey before blue
the Herald
Light is coming.

Lightning plays hide and seek
just out of the corner of my eye
fairy-like, it makes me wonder
was it there, or was it my imagination?

The world outside my door is ALIVE.

The grey gives up the sky
but clings to the clouds
as the earth turns its face toward the sun
(or is it turning its back on the night?)

my dog, my companion
wonders at the early excursion
sniffs the air for remnants of the breakfast
I forgot to share
shakes the lingering raindrops
from her ears

An insect
a speck of black against the bluing sky
flits into and out of my sight
the coffee is warm in my mouth, my throat
and lightning still flirts with my vision
(there? or not? hiding just out of sight?)

Lord, you have done all of this
and it is good.
A hint of orange kisses the horizon
caresses the earth as I retreat
to awaken my sleeping children.

But first, a song bursts forth from my lips,
my heart.