Christmas 2017

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These are art cards I sent my financial supporters this year.

Well, It’s been six months since I have written a blog post. I have had a couple of different types of chemo surging through my body, and some radiation. These treatments have taken their toll on my energy level, and writing the blog posts seemed like a good task to fling out the window. I’ve been in survival mode. However, here I am. Still alive. Still here.

I am on a targeted therapy now. Two pills everyday at lunchtime. Two months into this treatment, and I feel stronger than I have in a very long time. However, I am on pain pills that soften the deep ache of cancer, and I need the comfort the pills bring. I have leaned into the guilt of being on opioids, and I am past the need to be off them to save some sort of reputation. The pain won, and I needed help. So, while I “target” cancer cells, which is huge work, I will happily mask my pain.

Oh, but it’s Christmas, and this is a Christmas blog……….

What I really want to share with you, dear reader, is the transformation that has happened in my heart. Recently, I found myself, while driving of course, weeping over the love I have for God. (Lots comes up with me when I am driving.) You see, I have spent the last 7 years in an emotional healing journey that has coincided with fighting cancer. So much emotional healing has occurred, and I can happily report I no longer “leak” love and kindness poured into me by God and others.

I used to have big emotional “holes” which drove me to throw myself at unusual/dysfunctional people for love and affection. Through soul care, counseling, group support and choosing kind friends, these aforementioned holes have filled in a great deal. Now, when someone is kind and loving, I can actually feel it. When I am praying, I can now feel God’s care, and I really sense He hears me, sees me and loves me.

So, yes, much has happened in the last six months. I have much to celebrate. I am healing in many ways, and I still pray God might release me from cancer. On my driving through my tears day, I actually thanked Him for the cancer. Crazy, right? Well, in a mysterious way, the pain, I mean cry out loud pain, has brought me close into the arms of my God. I’ve found it a very safe place full of love.

Isn’t that what Jesus is all about? God with us? He came to us first. Loving us? Why not come to Him this Christmas? I sure have, and it is the best place to be here, and into eternity.

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Thanks for reading! God’s blessings on you now, and into the new year.

Shalom,

Marcia

Broken Cisterns and Living Water

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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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

Joyful Dancers

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In my living room, I have a large canvas of African dancers. I call the painting, “Joy.” This painting in my living room encourages me every single day. It reminds me to ponder all my blessings, and the one true God who gives those blessings. I can so easily get sidetracked by my daily concerns, my cancer, my oxygen tubing and its limitations, and so many other little details of my life. Then, there hangs that painting, preaching a sermon of encouragement to my anxious heart. I find myself letting go of my cares as I soak in the colors and movement.

Raise your voices;
make a beautiful noise to the Eternal, all the earth.
Serve the Eternal gladly;
enter into His presence singing songs of joy!
Know this: the Eternal One Himself is the True God.
He is the One who made us;
we have not made ourselves;
we are His people, like sheep grazing in His fields.
Go through His gates, giving thanks;
walk through His courts, giving praise.
Offer Him your gratitude and praise His holy name.
Because the Eternal is good,
His loyal love and mercy will never end,
and His truth will last throughout all generations. Psalm 100, The Voice version.

How did the painting come about? Well, when I was in Cameroon helping women to share their stories using art, as the stories were being told and each woman received prayer, the Cameroonian women would break out in joyful singing and dancing. It was an amazing experience to be a part of, and my soul still “sings” when I think of those days of joy. I came home and painted this painting!

So, when I feel down about fighting stage four cancer, when I ache all over and struggle to feed myself, huffing and puffing from the effort, I remember the joy of those women through my painting. I reach out for that joy.  And, I offer God praise for His goodness and mercy in my life. It might be just a moment in my day. However, there it is – a bit of redemption right at that moment, and God is glorified.

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On Planning My Own Memorial Service

Surprisingly, when my pastor, Hilario, his wife, Lois, and my second daughter, Katie, sat with me today to map out a memorial service, after my departure, I felt a weight had been lifted. Yes, I cried my way through some of it – I hate leaving loved ones. Truly, I love my people and wish never to say goodbye. However, before I knew it, I was laughing at the idea of joy and celebration (with Indian and Italian food and festive international flags) being the over-arching feelings during the service. Additionally, I sat with profound gratitude that these three dear ones would take the time from full and rich lives to do the hard work of helping me prepare my own memorial service.

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Joyful Dancers, Marcia Carole, acrylic on canvas

It was actually fun reviewing Scripture I wanted my two older grandsons to read. I could just picture them, taking a break from Legos, snacks, and their Seahawks shirts, only to don their khaki pants and nice shirts to honor their Gigi. They are both about to be baptized, so I know the Words they read will mean something important to their hearts. Those who gather that day will hear that “I have been crucified with Christ; it’s no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me…and, there is no longer any condemnation for Marcia because she is safely in Jesus – right into eternity.” Marcia has Jesus as her Rock and her redeemer for this life and the next. My young grandchildren will lead my people into these truths.

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Katie with her boys – my grandsons!

My friend, Judy, calls my departure, “Going Off Planet.” My friend, Gretchen, has reminded me, more than once, that when we get to Heaven, we will see that life on earth has been living in the low-rent district in contrast to the speech-defying beauty, goodness and glory we will be a part of in an Eternity with Jesus. By me remembering these sort-of jokes, coupled with my cancer, I am helped to press on in making my final plans.

I think we long to not die, on planet earth because, aside from the unknowingness of it all and the lack of control we possess over dying, I think there is a part of us, deep in our souls, that remembers the Big Story and how life was in our first Garden, our Home. There really was a beginning point in time when there was no death. Somehow, we know. There was just beauty, fearlessness, a vibrant garden, a totally transparent, loving couple, a tree filled with life, and rich community with God. However, the enemy of our souls snuck into our perfect Home and snarled, lied (God’s holding out on you), robbed and darn near destroyed us and everything around us. I think, we have this deep, unfulfilled longing for that Home. An angst. I’m just saying it’s there.

So, I got to do some planning today – important planning. As I was encouraging Pastor Hilario to really preach the Gospel during the service, my heart was gripped, my tears flowing, because my passion since nineteen years of age has been: there is a God, He faithfully loves you and me, He proved it by coming to earth as God with skin on – Jesus. He lived a perfect life. He died in our places for our evil thoughts, words, deeds. We can be forgiven for all our just plain darknesses of hearts and for believing that first lie that God was holding out on us. How? If we turn from trying to find Home apart from God and run to Him. I want Pastor Hilario to be sure to let everyone know; we are given Jesus’ righteousness when we run to Him, when we reach past our doubts and faint remembering of Eden. When we run and reach out to Jesus, and HIS palpable love, in faith, then Eden, Home is won back in our hearts. It’s a gift – a gift of being eternally Home with God.

And that is where I will be when the celebration of my life happens.

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Sunflower, Marcia Carole, watercolor

One song I hope to have at my memorial service: Give Me Jesus, by Fernando Ortega.

 

Loving Community

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Loving community. Your people who love you, just because they do. Doesn’t that sound like a nice, safe and happy place to be? I know from my own story, I truly want to be known, encouraged and loved in intimate community. I also want to have mutuality in these loving relationships, each of us freely using and appreciating the gifts and talents God has given us.  My life is substantially richer because I do have intimate, loving community with a group of friends in Seattle.  Family and friends in other parts of the country tell me, time and again, how blessed I am to have my people. They say Jesus is really obvious in my loving community. (You guys are real Christians, they say.)

I don’t take my people in Seattle for granted; it has been much harder to find community in Colorado. I’ve been told it takes one to two years. God is so kind to have given me a handful of friends here, over time, and because I was community starved, their friendship is all the sweeter. Doing life alone, in a new town, is a hard I didn’t think I’d experience as a follower of Jesus. I’ll just go to church, make some friends, it will be fine. It didn’t happen. 

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So, I’ve thought a lot about community, during my two years in Colorado. Thinking about how community might more easily happen, has captured my thoughts late into the night. Books like, A Meal With Jesus, suggesting forming loving, Christ-centered relationships around the dinner table, have peaked my interest in doing church and community in new ways. Not that I had anyone to do it with!

Here are a few thoughts on how I would like to approach life in order to be a grace-filled, loving community person for others:

1. God is a sovereign designer, THE Artist of artists, and He designs gatherings of people (church) because He knows what He needs and wants to create within a group of believers. He also knows what the group NEEDS to grow to become more like Jesus. When someone shows up at my church, I will assume God has brought her or him there as part of His fantastic design. I will assume we must need their gifting, their story, their pain, their joy, yes, and even their art, for the flourishing and maturing of our group. When someone shows up at my church or within my group, I want to say, “This is great! I wonder what God is up to. Let’s see who God brought to us!”

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My people praying for a woman in a hard place.

2. Who were Jesus’ people? (Who will my people be?) Jesus hung out with people who had hard stories, embarrassing stories. He spent lots of time with those who had been marginalized, abused, were sick, wicked sinners or had special needs. He liked children. He formed community with these people, and He restored these people to their communities.  If our personal stories include: brokenness, divorce, domestic violence, loss, addiction, violation, evil, hurting children or chronic illness, Jesus moves in closer. Oftentimes, these folks are the point people Jesus calls to lead evangelism in larger communities. I want these to be my people, too. Do we move in closer, or do we feel uncomfortable and run from these folks?

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Art to help form community – Getting to know each other by telling our stories through art making.

3. Forming community takes some of our precious time(I don’t think a year or two, however, as I was told in Colorado); it takes eating together, playing together, really sharing our stories with transparency, (who have you really done that with?) and, sometimes, sitting quietly saying nothing. As fast-paced, independent, self-sufficient, overachieving Americans, we don’t have time for sharing a meal, let alone sitting with another, saying nothing. As Christians, we have put our idolatry of achievement, making money, independence, and “being busy” to earn significance, above the Biblical mandate for community, empathetically loving our neighbor, being still, and knowing God. I understand this because I was one of the fastest paced, independent, overachieving, idolaters before several things, including cancer, stopped me in my tracks. I want to work intentionally towards a new normal. Can I relinquish my American idols for the Biblical mandates given to us by Jesus?

I can only speak for myself, but I am going to try to establish patterns to embrace the Biblical call for unity and being a part of the grand design of people coming to know Jesus “by our love for one another,” in place of my idols. And just maybe, this kind of love will replace the cheap idols of self-sufficiency, independence and busyness I cling to. I pray I leave room in my margins of energy for brothers and sisters – to really know and love them. I pray I save some emotional energy, so I can be grace-filled with those folks God brings along my path outside of my usual group of friends. Thus, I pray I leave open spaces in my heart and with my time for new friends in my circle of friends. I want to remember the person who just moved in.

A friend once said, “Watch a military family to see how fast they reach out to others in their neighborhood. They know they have a total of two, maybe three years in their town, so they make friends fast.” It’s typically true.  I’ve watched my daughter, Katie, the new person in the neighborhood, bring cookies to all the neighbors because she is working to meet people and form friendships quickly. I marvel at her joyful intentionality!

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My daughter Katie, as a military spouse, is joyfully intensional about forming friendships quickly.

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:10

Art To Engage

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Marcia Carole, graphite on paper

Some of the art I create, does indeed tell a story. However, for the above piece, I am actually drawing to start a conversation – to engage the viewer into thinking, feeling, and responding on the soul level. Hopefully, discussion of the content of the piece, follows. This is a drawing I rendered so I might engage viewers to turn their attention to women trapped in the sex traffic industry and for discussing justice. Many glance at it and turn away quickly. Others look more carefully.

May I help you to look? I wanted to draw to show a tension that exists in these women’s lives – those caught in all forms of sexual enslavement. (This woman could be in the porn industry, prostitution, or an enslaved, unpaid worker. Her residence can be anywhere in the world, including your town. She is trapped because she has little or no income, owes money to her keeper, her john has her IDs, she is undereducated, ashamed of herself, often comes from an abusive home, and has no hope of escape to anything good.)

Here is the tension in my drawing. The classic high heels symbolize the idea of beauty, femininity and even womanly poise and power. However, there she is, slumped over in pain and despair. Her hands and wrists are locked together as if by an invisible, but certain, set of handcuffs. She is trapped. Her beauty cannot save her. Her beauty is being stolen night after night, until it is replaced with disease and despair.  She will need something stronger to save her – she will need many empathetic, selfless advocates: law enforcement, justice workers, rescue workers, care providers and yes, musicians to sing her story, writers to tell of her plight, and artistths. These artists will have to have the courage to draw or paint her story and help the viewers to engage. She will need community.

Will we just turn away from her plight, or will we engage in her story? Will we act in such a way that we show what she is enduring, at the hands of evil people, is truly evil? And must stop. Each of us has an important choice today. Will we support those who are fighting for these women; will we become one of those fighters? Organizations abound for each of us to work with, support, encourage and pray for, nationally and internationally. Use your gifts to fight. Connect with organizations like International Justice Mission, IJM, to see how you can get involved. Justice is possible. One important woman at a time.

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Marcia Carole, sketching a portrait of a prostitute in Thailand to extend worth and value to her, and share that Jesus loves her, and so time could be obtained for co-workers to invite these women out to a care center. This woman has hopes and dreams, like my daughters, and I want to help restore those hopes and dreams.

 

I’m Standing

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A year ago, I heard a man speaking about lying flat for many months, on the floor, on his stomach, in order for his back to heal. He was my favorite speaker at the prestigious gathering. He shared his journey of all the things he had done while lying still and off the merry-go-round of active life. He started his healing journey by watching encouraging, positive movies, then moved onto darker fair, and ended his movie-watching with toxic, twisted stuff from the bottom of the barrel, so to speak. He is a pastor.

After his watching, he realized he had kind of come to the end of the creative banquet he had explored; I guess, it was kind of like he started with green, leafy vegetables and ended with double fudge sundays with dozens of shots of tequila. (Just like in the movies.) I appreciated his honesty as he shared his journey. (We are talking thousands of hours of lying still!) I’ve wandered into strange lands as far as entertainment goes, so his story resonated with me.

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Marcia Carole, Watercolor

God has His own timetable in our stories; it’s seemingly slower than the western cultures’ clocks, and God was still there at the end of the “banquet.” I think God was there, waiting for the time together with the pastor, with a tender heart. I mean that. I don’t believe for a minute that God is as distant, aloof or unkind, as we often make Him out to be in our minds. He created you and me, for heaven’s sakes. The pastor found God to be quite full of grace, kindness, empathy, truth, beauty and goodness.

How? The pastor decided to read the whole Bible – or listen to it, I think. He had that kind of time on “break.” However, as I have seen in my own healing journey, he wasn’t really on “break.” He was in a considerably deeper season of pondering life, sorting things out, catching his spiritual breath. He stopped relying on his own strength while grabbing onto God’s heart. (He had no strength to rely on, and that actually put him in an interesting, less self-reliant “I am maybe, almost like God” sort of place.) He spent time praying – talking with the God of tremendous heart. Thankfulness for this God grew in his heart.

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Vincent Van Gogh, Oils

He found the God of the Bible to be courageous, full of grace, kind, empathetic, truthful, beautifully glorious, fierce, reasonable, generous, overwhelming and good. The pastor got to know God in new, more nuanced ways, and more importantly, he realized his heart was transforming, having spent the time together. His soul was better.

After many, many months, the pastor was able to get off the floor, and jump back into busy western life. And, you know what? He was just thankful he was standing. He started his talk off with, “I am thankful I am standing here before you. ” And, he meant it. I sensed his authenticity.

In my cancer journey, I’m learning to take nothing for granted. If I actually stand, walk with my neuropathy-pained feet, change my sheets, bathe, eat, brush my teeth, make ANY art, connect with a friend on FaceTime, chat with a daughter, play Go Fish with Calvin, walk to the mailbox, then I am thankful. And I mean it much more than before this season. And, I’ve been listening, more and more, to a man reading the Bible. Little by little, I am knowing my God better. My heart will never be the same.

PS. My grandson Calvin, age 5, often tells me he is almost as strong as his daddy. (Or almost as smart, tall, wealthy – he has $17 dollars, etc.) He lifts objects in my apartment to prove his claims – from pillows to books to chairs. I marvel at Calvin’s bravado, but, then I chuckle at myself. Don’t I show that same or deeper, bravado towards God? Saying, and even believing, “I’m almost as strong, smart, tall, wealthy…. as God.” Calvin is in good company.

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Sharing The Creative Call at a Conference, and I’m a wee bit healthier!

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