Fresh Off the Easel {Obsessed With Murmurations}

Have you heard of a murmuration?

Simply put, a murmuration is a flock of starlings in flight.  However, Grainger Hunt, senior scientist at the Peregrine Fund, describes a murmuration this way:  “a dazzling cloud, swirling, pulsating, drawing together to the thinnest of waists, then wildly twisting in pulses of enlargement and diminution...” 

I rather like his definition.

About a month ago, I finished this piece, and posted the image to my IG feed:

 

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The next day, The Preacher and I went to the Smokies in the afternoon.  Once we returned to cell service range, my phone buzzed several times.

This painting would have sold FOUR times.

So...I am working on another, as we speak.  

Also, if you haven't seen this video of a murmuration yet....well...you're welcome.  Prepare to be amazed.

 

A Timely Re-Post From the Archives {"Obedient or Absurd?"}

(This is a re-post from the archives of my old blogger site.  It dates all the way back to 2009.  And it is even more relevant today.  Apparently, these "mid-life" themes and issues have been life-messages of mine, for many, many years. This post was given an updated image, and the ages of The Preacher and I were updated...we've grown lots older.  It's so weird.)

Absurd.  Of course, the word means "ridiculous".  But what I didn't know is that the word comes from the Latin word, meaning "deaf".

 

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(Ink, Stabilo pencil, watercolor, and a (found) butterfly wing.  Titled "I Will Lead Unashamed")

There can be no obedience without listening. There is no real listening without relationship to God, and to people who are faithful to tell us what we do not want to hear.

Obedience is not taking a principle or method, and applying it with literal exactitude. And it certainly is not taking feelings and making them fact.  Such inflexible "obedience" is actually a manifestation of not listening...it is deafness...it quickly becomes absurd. Obedience is to hear, in the moment, the heart of the One who is in charge.

There can be no obedience without being willing to hear. Not just hear words...hear heart.

At no time are we in more danger of defaulting into a deaf-absurdity, than in mid-life. After all, we've earned our many merit badges, like good life-scouts. We can now chart our own course, and we do not have to listen to anyone but ourselves...or to those ever-faithful to "prophesy" to our flesh.

On many levels, we can become "hard of hearing" beginning in mid-life. My husband, who is a mere 54 (post edit:  age was updated to reflect 2018), and a tad hard of hearing, having been a drummer all his life, asked me, awhile back, with a baffled expression, "What is it about mid-life, for some people??"

He's right. At this transitional turning point in time, we choose a certain perspective, we cling to it as our reality...and thus set the course for the rest of our lives.  In.  Cement.  

We either summon the courage to take the creative, relational path of grace and truth, or we, often precisely at mid-point, begin our descent into a self-preserving, strange absurdity. Rigid in our inflexible pain-points, we lose hearing, sight, smell, and we lose touch with people who used to matter to us. There is no fruit, no sweet smelling-tasting-beautiful harvest to be had in absurdity.  

Every life has trauma in the middle.  But for some, trauma becomes a way to justify not hearing. 

Mid-life can bring insensibility, or it can set us free to experience God and relationships with eyes wide open, ears attuned, head doused, dripping in the oil of gladness, and plowing straight into what God intends to be the harvest-time of our lives.

How do we know if we are living the life of obedient listening, or the disobedience of not hearing? Look for any signs of the ridiculous. Look for the extreme, absurd reaction.  Also, look for the cool, intellectual rigidity of the quid pro quo ethos: tit for tat. You are this way, I respond that way. You offend me, I withdraw. Your worth has been measured, your "work" evaluated, and I "pay" with a kiss, always. I do not listen for anything more, I hear nothing more as to your value beyond what I evaluate, in terms of my own needs and expectations.

Absurdity. Deafness.  I weep at the thought.  

Rather, I want courage and victory.

Victory...true victory...has a voice.  It is the voice of the community.  I want to adjust my perspective to be able to hear the sound of it. It is a sound of joyful shouting, coming from the family tent. After all, I shall be 55 years old in a few years (updated for 2018)...regardless of the lateness of the hour, I need my mind renewed to be able to hear.

Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you! ...You called, you shouted, and you broke through my deafness. You flashed, you shone, and you dispelled my blindness. You breathed your fragrance on me; I drew in breath and now I pant for you.
~St. Augustine

When The Best Becomes Robber of Good

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Since the turn of the year, I've found myself in a time of hearing the Lord and my own life speak to me.  It has been unlike any other season of the "New Year", and perhaps unlike any other season, ever.  I can't stop writing.

And as I write, the pages are redolent with inspiration and rediscovery, lines squeezed in at odd angles, in pens of various colors, words pushing their way up through the stubborn sod of mid-life apathy and anxiety.  

I would love to share the words I'm feverishly scrawling right here.  My hope is that reading them - you and I - that we will not only experience a personal breakthrough, but also the first shaping of a new, timely, contemporary appreciation of natural church.  Analog church.  Slow church.  

I am discovering that the present model of what makes for a successful church is actually an old relic, dating back to the garden of Eden.  Everything God made was good.  It was gift.  

And along came Serpent, to see to it that "the best" became robber of good...that great became the robber of good.  And here we all are, thinking that all we need is a better, best way to "be the church".

I am waving my flag, and getting off Crazy Train.  And it is beyond refreshing.  It is beyond refreshing to see God's creation, which is His church, as a place to live into the questions inevitable when the kingdom of God is supernatural and the lives of people ordinary.

It is exciting, I think, to explore a smaller yet much larger, saner perspective.  A perspective that is inherently natural and embodied in my individuality, yet entirely supernatural and only embodied in community.  A perspective that leans into ordinary life, and watches it become something extraordinary, simply because I have chosen to love what is mine.

There is this sudden, slow satisfaction of spiritual things set right.

2018, your sudden shifts are welcome here.  My pen is poised.

"My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer."  Psalm 45:1

 

Showing Up As Myself, For the Glory of God and the Benefit of Others

I've been re-reading the book by Emily P. Freeman entitled "A Million Little Ways".  

 

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If you haven't yet read it...I don't know what to say.  Amazon!  Go!  I'll wait for you.  

In re-reading it, years after my first reading, I can clearly see that this one book was THE catalyst to much of what has happened in my life since then, creatively speaking.  

Re-reading (and listening on Audible) has felt like visiting an old, very trusted friend.  The kind of friend who  says yet again the very thing you most need to hear.  

I realized how, once more, I have quietly, in my secret heart, thought that my gift was not "enough".  You see, my gift...I mean, my gift...is words.  I love words, I write words, I put words in my art, I embed them in my heart, I value them like I value my breath...like I value bifocal readers.  And you better know I value my bifocal readers.  Because, words.

The Holy Spirit speaks to me in words.  I know that might sound like a firm grasp of the obvious.  But for many, He speaks in "impressions", in a strong "sense" that they may receive, and in circumstances.  He even speaks to some believers through numbers, colors, the list is endless, because the Holy Spirit is endlessly creative.  He speaks to me in those ways too...but mostly, He just uses words with me.  Words get my attention.

There have been seasons when I haven't heard the Lord well or clearly, but thankfully those seasons are the exception, not the rule.  There have been times I have heard the Lord as clearly and concisely as though He'd spoken audibly.  I've heard Him speak to me for me, and to me for the benefit of others.

And in the last year or so I've unconsciously, and yet again, devalued that.  Because we live in a day and time when "activism" is the socially accepted and cool agenda, I have unfortunately heard and deeply received a message that said, "YOUR WORDS ARE NOT ENOUGH."

I get that.  Sometimes it's true.  I understand the whole "be warmed and filled" thing, and how a lifestyle of platitudes isn't the way of the Savior.

But "in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  And "A word in season, how good it is!"  My ministry to people, my image-bearing gift, is to bring a word.  Since that is my gift and my call, in many situations, if that is "all I do", it is enough

I've been thinking of that today.  I've been thinking of times when I heard the Lord speak to me in ways no one would believe...

...like that time He said to me to go to a certain restaurant, to sit alone, without eating, (I got a coffee) and open my Bible and read.  Wouldn't you know it, when I went in, there was a table full of people I knew, and they invited me to join them.  I actually had to blush pink and say, "Um.  The Lord said to come here and sit alone."

Yeah, no.  They didn't understand.

I sat down, ordered my coffee, pulled my Bible out of my purse (it was big - both the purse and the Bible, because this was all the way back in the 1980's) and opened it right up to:

When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
Lord God Almighty.
I never sat in the company of revelers,
never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
and you had filled me with indignation.
Why is my pain unending
and my wound grievous and incurable?
You are to me like a deceptive brook,
like a spring that fails.
Therefore this is what the Lord says:

“If you repent, I will restore you
that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
you will be my spokesman.”
— Jeremiah 15

Now that was supernatural.  And heavy.  Heavy, in every way.  So heavy, I am still unpacking what God actually said to me that day.  Wrapped up in it was the call to repent - to change my mind and leave legalism and speak only worthy words of Good News.  First to myself, then to the world.  That didn't happen until many years - many hard, difficult years - later.

Not till I'd had my fill of my own performance.  Not till I felt empty of all self righteousness and filled with indignation at how it seemed God had failed me.  In other ways, I still carry a burden that feels like a "pain unending".  Now, that wasn't at all the context for Jeremiah.  But the whole passage fit me then, and still fits like a glove to this day.

That was what I call a "life word".

Then, there's little things like candles.

I went out shopping for a friend today.  A friend who has experienced a recent loss.  Rolling around in my mind was Emily's words, and the fact that I've been devaluing my own words, and this friend of mine, I want to be Jesus to her, and what does He want to say to her?  I stood in the checkout line, and my eyes were drawn to the candles.

I knew this candle had to be all-natural, no chemicals.  It needed to be soy, and not too too smelly.  Well, there sat five shelves of nothing but "Yankee Candles".  

Nope.

But then...near the very bottom...there it was!

 

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One candle.  Named "Fearless".

And the word of the Lord came to me.  So I bought the candle, along with slippers and a blanket, rushed home and plopped it all in a basket, with a card filled with words.  

You know what?

The words really would have been enough.  If all I did was write them in a card and give them to her, it would be enough and the Lord would be pleased.  But in this case, I'm so, so happy to deliver them alongside tokens of Father's comfort.

What I am hoping you can see is that God speaks in big ways and small ways, and very supernatural ways and very seemingly ordinary ways.  He uses Scripture and candles and people to speak words of comfort and joy to a weary world.

"Use your words."

On Mushrooms and Men {...thoughts on leadership...}

There's an aspect of leadership that mirrors a mushroom.

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                                                                                                   (my own photography)

Mushrooms have the ability to take an otherwise toxic substance, and turn it into a food source. 

May I just make the observation that jealousy is toxic?  That bitterness is toxic?  That a lack of honor is especially toxic in this culture?  As a leader, particularly a spiritual leader, you will find yourself pouring your heart, time, tears, and years into people who quite suddenly and mysteriously will begin to treat you as a peer.  And what is more, they not only stop appreciating the investments made into them, they start subtly undermining your efforts and downplaying your decades of service and experience.  They move on to the next new noun:  the next "shiny" person, place, thing, or idea.

This happens either because a) They want to be the leader, and have become competitive and jealous, or b)  You said or did something that did not please them.  You went off-script...their script.  Somewhere things reached a point when you had to lead and had to say something true that offended them.

And, just like that, all your input, your time, your track record will mean very little anymore.  Welcome to leadership, friend.  You can count on it.

People are that fickle.

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And mushrooms are more closely related to humans than plants, in their DNA structure!  

You, too, as a leader, can actually thrive in a toxic atmosphere of petty "stuff".  You can turn all of it into food for thought through your study of Scripture.  You can metabolize it into messages that carry a yoke-breaking anointing.  You can feed off of the negativity...when you have to...when it seems that's all there is, all around you...and you can transform it into productivity and praise.  

To a true leader, opposition is fuel.  It isn't our favorite fuel, it isn't what we'd pick for ourselves in the cafeteria line, but when it is served up...

...we sure can eat it for breakfast.  Like a boss.