Deep Holes, Living Water

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My art mentor, Marge, asked me if I was excited about my woman at the well book, The Drink Of A Lifetime, being published. How kind of her to ask. What a gift to just ask me how I am feeling. She takes time to ask and listen. She models loving, mentoring well for me. She’s been a true shepherd in my life.

I think about her question. I’m in a very different place emotionally than when I first made the art for the book. Yes, I knew about the Samaritan woman’s holes and how they resonated with my own story. But now, after so much chemo pain, night after night, day upon day, I think I better know her cavernous pain – the five failed marriages and now just “living,” truly unsafely, with a man. No commitment from that man. No certainty of love, care and fidelity. I mean, she must have been emotionally spent. Done. Chemo done.

Yet, Jesus steps into her very messy story and bottomless pain, carefully revealing He profoundly knows her and loves her in the safest way possible. He initiates in a winsome way, (“Can I have a drink?”) His desire to be eternally committed to her in life-giving love. (Living water) Most would certainly be put off by her messy life. Handling someone else’s pain, without suffering ourselves, rarely happens. However, Jesus did not distance Himself from her; He moves in close to make things eternally right and to heal.

I am learning of His loving commitment to me in deeper places in my heart. He is healing my cavernous “holes” just as He healed hers. Holes like pride, selfishness, envy, unforgiveness, and control. With quiet whispers in these nights, He says, “What about this? Could you have responded differently? Anything you want to confess?” There have been many nights of hot tears on my cheeks as I recall unkind words, jealousy for ministry, jealousy for health, wanting to control my own life, for heaven’s sake. “I’m sorry,” I whisper back, with the lump of remorse in my throat. Then, I’m gripped by God’s love and forgiveness flooding in at those moments of sorrow. (Living Water for me!) More tears break way to rest; He has carefully made things right eternally and healed.

So, yes, it’s nice to be able to share the book with my family and friends, and hopefully with women in tough places around the world. So many have cheered me on in this cancer journey; it’s so much fun to share this book with them. But, my deeper excitement is in knowing I’m loved with that same safe, life-giving love of Jesus, for all eternity, as given to the woman at the well.

To order your copy of The Drink Of A Lifetime, please click HERE.

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Marge, left, and me, in Lucca, Italia.

 

 

Broken Cisterns and Living Water

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A friend, Judy, recently texted me about a video she watched on the Bible story of the Woman At The Well. Since this story has captured my heart deeply, and I’ve got a collaged art book in the process of being published on the subject, I asked for a link to the video. I enjoy finding out new things about any Bible story; each story is so multi-faceted. I don’t think any of us can exhaust finding treasures in just about any Biblical narrative. But this one, well, it’s very special to me.

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The teacher in the video, Lysa Turkheurst, was standing right in front of the famous well – Jacob’s Well. It is now within a plastered and fresco decorated room, religious paintings hanging all around, I guess for tourists. It was nice to see the real well, or cistern, for myself. It sure did not look like the well in my arid desert scene in my collaged book! However, Lysa explained cisterns in a way I had never understood before. Cisterns had to be plastered in order to really hold water and be a well. If the plaster cracked, then the water could leak out. Cisterns needed constant upkeep so the water wouldn’t leak out.

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Jacob’s Well where Jesus and the Samaritan woman met.

Jesus offers the woman “Living Water” springing up to eternal life. His offer is so radically different from an old well that constantly needs patching! He’s offering a spring of flowing water, not a well that can crack, leak and constantly remain on one’s repair list. This information greatly helps in understanding Jesus’ offer to the woman, and this gem of a verse in Jeremiah: “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Jeremiah 2:13 Had she heard that verse? Was she putting it all together?

I had made the woman, with a collaged dress, that looks like it has holes, because I wanted to speak of her holes or the broken places in her heart. She was trying to fill her holes with many relationships. This way of life is her “broken cistern” she’s been trying to plaster over.  Jesus doesn’t want to plaster over her holes, but wants to captivate her heart with an entirely transformative strategy – springs of living water.

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There is just so much in this epic love story. How kind of God to gently show me yet another facet to His planned encounter with the woman at the well!

And, it’s making me think about the cisterns in my life. When I spend hours and hours in bed resting because of the chemo pill, I cry out to God to be my spring of Living Water, or where I find my source of life. I sense His closeness in new ways as I drift in and out of sleep. When I get up and start moving, almost immediately there is a temptation to find my source of life in my doing. Making a painting. Collaging a new book. Getting a project going. Fighting cancer with a new and different smoothie.  I’m so American! My worth gets all entangled with doing something. I’m not saying it’s wrong to do, it just will not satisfy my deepest longings for love, worth and value by putting hope for those in my doing. 

Then, I end up back in bed, and I lie there calling out to God. I’m spending eternity with Him, so perhaps many hours with Him, in and out of sleep, before I pass on, may be just where He wants me.

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Video

The Real Meal

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Here is my latest teaching video of my latest collaged art book. The book comes after study in Luke 10:38-42. It goes well with the “What’s On Your Plate?” art project found at the link below the video.

To connect an art project with this teaching, see “What’s On Your Plate?”on my website.

The Drink Of A Lifetime!

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This is a true, inspiring story, found in the Bible, which beautifully shows what Jesus is like. We know from other parts of the Bible; Jesus is Jewish, a carpenter turned Rabbi, and truly, the Son of God. In this story, we find Jesus knows every woman’s life story and, in spite of how hard or easy life has been, Jesus loves women to their core, and He wants to give them eternal life. Here, we see Jesus meet with a Samaritan woman, known as “The Woman At The Well.” She is having a hard life.

Look at the Samaritan woman’s dress. It is filled with holes. These holes represent parts of her broken, empty heart. Because she has tried to find love and acceptance in many difficult relationships, without success, her heart has brokenness or emotional holes. Will Jesus be able to help her with these holes?

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Jesus is hot, tired, thirsty and hungry. He is in a place of need. It is noon; the heat of the sun is directly over his head. He is seated at a famous place, Jacob’s well, in Samaria. This well is 100 feet deep and fed by a flowing spring. His disciples have gone into town to find some lunch. As Jesus humbly sits at the well, the Samaritan woman approaches alone with her water jar. It’s odd she is alone and coming at noon.

Women usually walked together to gather water. They come to the well early in the day, so they have plenty of water for their meals, their animals and their cleaning. It is likely this woman is alone because she is a social outcast; her community of women have judged her poor moral life and decided she should be left out – marginalized from their daily lives. It is a daily shame for her to walk to this well alone.

The Bible says Jesus “had to go through Samaria” on His was to Galilee. There were other ways to Galilee, so it seems likely His urgency to go through Samaria is because He planned to meet with the woman at the well and her community. Everywhere He went, Jesus had encounters with people that changed their lives forever. Let’s see what happens at Jacob’s well in Samaria.

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Samaritans have their own distinct religion, a mixture of Jewish faith and other faiths, without many Jewish distinctive. Jews and Samaritans hated each other because of this mixture and tried to have nothing to do with each other. As the woman arrives at Jacob’s well, Jesus says to her, “Will you give me a drink?” Surprised He would even talk with her, the woman replies, “You are a Jew, and I am a Samaritan woman.” She is reminding Jesus; Jews and Samaritans hate each other.

The fact that Jesus is Jewish, a man, a rabbi, and the Son of God, but He wants to have a drink and a conversation with this woman, shows He is eager to cross the gender boundary, the religious/racial boundary, and the moral/social boundary. These were normal boundaries for that time. Jesus was revolutionary in crossing all these boundaries.

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Responding to the woman, Jesus says, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would ask me for a drink, and I would give you Living Water.” The woman replies, “You don’t even have a cup, this well is really deep. How are you going to get this “Living Water?” Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well, drank from it, along with his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?” She’s thinking fast on her feet! This well has the best water around, so how will Jesus be able to produce even better water? How will He get it?

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Jesus embraces the woman’s questions. He thoughtfully and kindly responds to her, “When you drink from this well, you will get thirsty again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst again. The water I give will be a spring just like a fountain of endless water lasting into eternity.” The woman excitedly replies, “Sir, give me this water so I am never thirsty again, and I will never have to come back to this well again.” She has forgotten quickly how special the well is! She is hoping to satisfy her physical need for water, and her emotional need to avoid the daily shame of coming to the well alone.

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Then, Jesus asks her to go get her husband. That command will touch at the heart of her story and her holes. “I have no husband,” the woman asserts. Jesus responds, “You have sure answered correctly. You have had five husbands, and the man you are living with is not your husband.” Wow! He knows her story, in deep ways, that he hints at with the facts in His response. He’s also catching her in a half-truth, because actually she’s had many husbands and is currently living with a man. Yet, He remains kindly engaged with this woman. Do you think He wanted to heal her heart?

There may be a variety of reasons why this woman has been married five times. She may have been: unable to have children and her husband wanted children, or she may be widowed, or she may have been abused. She may have committed adultery. Whatever her reasons for five marriages and five divorces, she has endured much shame through either her actions, or the actions of her husbands. She is currently living in a shame-filled relationship; the man she is living with won’t marry her. She is really in a profoundly unsafe and impoverished situation.

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She must have marveled at how Jesus knew her story. She concludes He is a prophet, a man who speaks for God. “I perceive you are a prophet,” she replies and adds, “We Samaritans worship on this mountain, but you Jews worship in Jerusalem. Where should we worship?” Jesus must have enjoyed having the conversation turn to her worship! Most likely, she has been worshiping men, and how they might satisfy her deepest needs. He takes the time to teach and to care for this woman’s heart-felt questions and miss-placed worship.

“The time is coming, and really, has come when you worship God neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem. Salvation does come from the Jews, however, true worshipers worship God in spirit and in truth in their hearts. That’s the worship God seeks. God is spirit and must be worshiped in spirit and in truth.” The woman at the well is listening intently. Perhaps, she feels her question hasn’t been fully explained, because she informs Jesus, “I know Messiah is coming. When He comes, He will explain everything to us.” She is counting on getting the whole story on worship from the Messiah. Jesus reveals Himself to her when He next says, “I, the one speaking to you, am Messiah.” What amazing grace for her to have such crucial news first-hand! Now all her questions can be answered.

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Just then, the disciples return to the well with lunch. They are shocked to see Jesus talking with that kind of woman! They didn’t have the nerve to ask Him why He is talking to her, but you can imagine their surprised and maybe, mocking faces.

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As they approach, the woman drops her water jar and runs back to her community. The woman has forgotten all about her need for drinking water! She is filled with joy as she shares with the townspeople, “Come meet a man who told me everything I ever did! He knows everything about me. Could He be the Messiah?” How many people do you know with whom you are happy they know your whole story? Her story is filled with shame, and yet, she grasps Jesus knows her shame-filled story and STILL wants a relationship with her. He wants to give her “Living Water” and says He is the Messiah.

The people make their way to the well to see the man who so captivated the Samaritan woman’s heart. At the urging of the townspeople, Jesus and His disciples stay two more days in Samaria. Many believed Jesus is the Messiah based on the woman’s testimony, and, also, in seeing Jesus for themselves. As Jesus left town, the townspeople said, “We know this man is really the Savior of the world.” Jesus graciously allowed the woman at the well to be a part of bringing many to this knowledge, and He left her with a community of people who would appreciate and love her. She is no longer left out or alone in her shame. Her holes are being filled with Jesus and His love. Her brokenness is being healed as she worships God in spirit and in truth, in her heart. She is safe and spiritually wealthy. Now, she drinks from the fountain of Living Water!

Please see John, chapter four to read the whole story in the Bible.

 

 

 

Deeper Roots

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Well Watered Trees, Watercolor in Nicaragua, Marcia Carole

The past couple of days have been resting days, yet again. I’m off the chemo pill this week, so it makes no sense that I am so weak. Maybe I picked up yet another virus? All I can do is lean into resting, yet again today.  While I lie in bed, I often listen to a number of teachers, who help me to think about my faith. Today, I spent a bit of time with a teacher in Jeremiah 2, in the Old Testament.

“Your wickedness will punish you; your backsliding will rebuke you. Consider then and realize how evil and bitter it is for you when you forsake the LORD your God and have no awe of me,” declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty.” Jeremiah 2:19.

What was the underlying problem for God’s people? No awe of God, no reverence or holy fear of God. So, I got to thinking….In my moments of sin, I am not in awe of God, but of something else – maybe my comfort or happiness or pleasure or success or my reputation. I do think, as a Jesus follower, the Holy Spirit prompts us to keep away from malice, envy, bitterness, all the sins mentioned in 1 Peter,etc. but we don’t always heed God’s promptings. I think, at that moment, what we/I treasure or what we are in awe of, directs our actions, thoughts, words.

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Well Watered Tree Bearing Fruit, Watercolor, Marcia Carole

As I have spent, and continue to spend, so much time lying in bed, resting, seemingly doing nothing… the Lord is working away. He has repeatedly convicted me of my sins over the years, lovingly prodding away at my lack of awe-led obedience moments, for so many years, in so many situations. I weep hot tears with Him when I think of my lack of obedience and head-strong actions. I ask His forgiveness and mercy for choosing: comfort, pleasure or happiness over obedience, as I endlessly nap.

These are dark, hard, hard days of destroying cancer cells, and, sigh, some good cells, too. However, I imagine these are golden days in tearing down lesser things taking my worship while building up my God-awe, by my confessing sin/rebellion, in so many hidden corners He is revealing in my soul. Then, He is building God-awe in those torn down places. My only hope is in knowing I am that tree (Psalm 1) God planted in streams of living water, with my roots digging down deeper than they’ve ever had to go before. And it’s truly painful. However, my awe-filled soul roots, can be in nothing less than Jesus and His righteousness. God is making certain of that.

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Psalm 1 Tree, Watercolor, Marcia Carole

“Italian Bicycle”

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Italian Bicycle, Marcia Carole, Watercolor

It’s been a very long while since my last blog post. My focus has been on living with stage four breast cancer while trying a new strategy – a chemo pill and estrogen blocking shots. I’ve made some real progress in the fight, according to my latest blood work results. With the progress, has come increased pain. However, in the midst of pain, I have fought for a new piece of art. The above painting is the first of its kind in many months.

I have lovely memories of idillic weeks of leisure in the Tuscan town of Lucca. While there, I often walked past the above scene, especially on afternoon strolls. I loved the jumble of plants, pots and bicycle. I snapped lots of photos (all looking the same) and dreamed of painting a watercolor of this scene. Well, here it is – and it’s a miracle painting.

Making art actually takes great concentration – something that is in short supply for my chemo- bruised brain. With grit, determination, and a true passion for my subject matter, I sketched this beloved scene. Then I went over the sketch in pen. Finally, I added layer upon layer of watercolor. As my mind wobbled and my body gave out with the deep ache of the residual destruction of chemo, I crawled across the art-making finish line. I hastily brought this piece to my printer in Seattle. (Before I ran out of steam.) I received amazing gicleé prints from him. I had cards printed to sell and give as gifts. All of this work seems to be a miracle of sorts. You see, these days, I take nothing for granted. Each day is, more and more, a gift.  And, well….just maybe, that’s a good place to be.