Painting a Word Picture

If I liken my writing process to painting a picture…

The canvas rests precariously on the easel.  In stark contrast to the room that surrounds it, it is bleached, devoid of colour.  It has so much potential where it is, but it will never be fully realized unless splashed with colour, meticulously or haphazardly applied, dependent upon the artist’s whims.  It begs to be painted, the masterpiece vibrantly alive and vivid in the mind’s eye of the artist, but she hesitates over the canvas.  The colours are right there in front of her, the brushes poised to be picked up, but she procrastinates again wiping her hands nervously on her smock.  

This is the most difficult part of the painting: the first stroke.  The whiteness of the canvas is, in many ways, pure perfection.  There are no mistakes to wipe off and away; no regrets, no tears upon it yet.  That first stroke will change it forever.  The experiences and will of the artist will be reflected upon it, the moment she begins to paint.  That is why she hesitates.  She knows what she wants to express.  She knows the colours and the shading she wants to incorporate into the piece, but will the masterpiece in her mind come to glorious fruition on the canvas?  Has she over estimated her abilities as an artist?  Does she have the talent, or the will, to express herself in such a way that anyone who gazes upon the painting will experience the same colourful landscape she sees in her mind’s eye?  She is almost paralyzed with insecurity. 

Taking a deep breath, and whispering a sigh-like “help me” prayer, she dips her brush into the paint.  As soon as she makes that first brush stroke she is committed.  The painting takes on a will of its own.  The original picture she envisioned is changing before her eyes.  She adapts by adding hues, texture, and tones she hadn’t originally thought about using.  It’s not perfect but it’s the imperfections that give it subtle essence and depth of perspective.  She steps away many times to pace, clear her head, and rethink what her next move will be.  

She forgets to eat, the clock on the wall ticks on rhythmically, keeping time with her brush strokes.  The light dims in her studio, but still she paints on. Reluctantly, she lets the brush drop when her eyes can no longer focus on the intricacies of the work before her.  She is spent.  The canvas is still wet.  Wiping her paint splattered hands off on her smock; she sees something out of the corner of her eye and wonders if she has time to add just a dab or two more of burnt umber to highlight the scene.  Shaking her head, she wills herself to walk away.  Tomorrow will come soon enough, and though the unfinished picture still burns in her mind, she forces herself to return to some kind of normalcy that is found just outside of her studio at day’s end.  Sleepless nights and crazed days of painting, sap her of strength but she is driven to finish her work.  Her imagination now splayed in wild abandon, on the once bleached canvas, is uncontrolled and unbridled. No amount of coaxing can sway her from completing her task.   

Her family has been patient with her while she has felt the urgings of creativity pull her away from the chores of making dinners, vacuuming rugs and cleaning toilets.  Her paint projects always seem to take her far away from the trivialities of life.  Her family understands.  Subsisting on pizza and take-out while she paints, her family are her greatest cheerleaders.  It does not go unnoticed by her.  She will call them her precious inspirations.  When the painting is finished, framed and displayed on the walls of a gallery, she will trivialize her efforts in a humbling attempt to bring honour to the way her family sacrificed while she painted.  Until then, she is completely immersed in the project at hand.  

After what feels like a lifetime of effort, she jabs her brush like a rapier towards the canvas one last time.  With the conclusive splash of colour, she steps back exhausted and almost weeps at the finality of it.

In the days following the unveiling of her work, when others praise and critique her efforts, she will remember and recount the “help me” prayer lifted up in panic, moments before the first brush stroke.  She will acknowledge that without His Calling on her life, and His Gifting, she would not be able to generate the art before her.  

In the weeks that follow, there is a peaceful lull.  She cleans her studio, and her home.  She reacquaints herself once again with the routine of being a wife and mother and finds some tranquil satisfaction in her less flamboyant role as homemaker.  She all but abandons her paints and brushes in favour of this temperate existence until she remembers a new blank canvas with so much potential waiting for her in the studio.  A picture gradually develops in her mind’s eye, and she cannot abandon the thought of it.  It beckons to her until she can no longer ignore the Call and she breathlessly murmurs another “help me” prayer before she once again begins to paint.

This post was originally published on the InScribe Writer’s Online blog on May 17, 2018.

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25 Encouraging Scripture Verses For Your Pastor

Our church is currently going through a search for a new Senior Pastor.  As I prayed this morning for God to direct us in finding the next man who will lead our church in the coming years, I was mindful of the men who had previously lead our fickle flock.  To be the under-shepherd of any church, I must acknowledge can be a lonely and thankless calling, filled with discouragement and frustration.  Hurt people hurt people, and Pastors have oftentimes been caught in the crossfire! We have been blessed with great leaders who have walked our church through many seasons of life and change.

I am thankful for all Pastors who answer the Call to proclaim the Gospel each week to  wayward flocks and wary communities.  There will be countless distractions in a Pastor’s life and spiritual attack is prevalent in this line of work.  I love this quote from R.C. Sproule: “Your task, O preacher, is to make sure that you are faithful to the text, that you are faithful to the proclamation of that gospel, that you are faithful to set forth the whole counsel of God, and then step back and let it happen.”

I want to say thanks to the Pastors who teach from the Word by being faithful to the text, and for your leadership in effectively equipping the church for ministry.  Bless you in all your efforts and endeavours!  

Ephesians 4:11-12  “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

1 Peter 5:1-4  “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

Proverbs 27:23  “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;”

Romans 10:14  “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

1 Timothy 3:1-7  “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task. Now the overseer is to be above reproach, faithful to his wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.”

Psalm 119:130  “The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.”

2 Timothy 4:2  “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction.”

Titus 1:7-9  “Since an overseer manages God’s household, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather, he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it.”

Acts 20:28  “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.

Hebrews 13:17  “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”

1 Corinthians 15:58  “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

Jeremiah 3:15  “Then I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding.”

Mark 16:15  “He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Colossians 1:28-29  “He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me.”

Isaiah 55:10-11  “As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.”

Galatians 6:9  “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Isaiah 40:31  “but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

1 Peter 3:15  “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,”

Philippians 4:19  “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”

1 Corinthians 9:14  “In the same way, the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should receive their living from the gospel.”

2 Corinthians 5:18  “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:”

2 Corinthians 4:1-5  “Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.”

1 Timothy 3:13  “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing and great assurance in their faith in Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 3:12-17  “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”

1 Corinthians 9:22-27  “To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.  Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™

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Meandering

It has been a couple of weeks since I last blogged. Admittedly, I have really struggled with trying to write as often and as regularly as I would like. I could make up all kinds of excuses I suppose, but the fact is, I haven’t had much to really write about. In this season of Covid, I’m just trying to navigate this new normal.

My husband and I decided to take a road trip into the Kootenay region of British Columbia, trying to extend our holiday vibes for another week. It was wonderful to see new sights, and enjoy the warm weather. We knew we would be coming home to Southern Alberta and the possibility of frost and snow, so we languished on outside patios in B.C. and enjoyed the lake views for as long as possible. Sure enough, when we came home to the Ponderosa, I immediately turned my attention to moving my flower baskets indoors to avoid the killing frost expected. That’s the reality here in Alberta. We can go from temperatures close to 30 C. to below 0 overnight. Thankfully, the early cold snaps usually do not last long, so we can actually enjoy warmer weather within days of a frost or September snowfall.

These wild temperature fluctuations tend to mess with my head, and I wasn’t surprised when I battled a wicked headache for a couple days after returning from B.C. After a few days holed up inside, it was nice to venture out and about to do some grocery shopping. I reluctantly donned my mask and diligently followed the arrows to walk up and down the aisles. An hour in the store and I couldn’t wait to get to my car to remove my mask. I was actually starting to feel claustrophobic in a big box store!

We attended an indoor church service for the first time since March, before we left for B.C. Our church has taken all the precautions as regulated by Alberta Health to keep all congregants safe. Masks must be worn, no singing, no physical contact (handshakes, hugs). We must sign up for each service for contract tracing, we need to ensure we are healthy to attend; anyone with any signs of fever, cough, runny nose etc., are asked to stay at home. All the seats are spread out in the church auditorium to maintain physical distancing, and that means that there are fewer people allowed to attend the services. Sitting beside my husband, and looking around the sanctuary, I just felt so disconnected. Seeing all my church family again should have brought me such joy, instead I stared at their masked faces, and was adversely distracted by the distanced unfamiliarity I felt around me instead of the camaraderie and fellowship I once shared with them.

What has happened to us?

Fear has driven us to distance ourselves from one another. I see it every time I enter a store, or pass by someone on a sidewalk. We do our utmost to avoid contact. We are lepers without leprosy. With our masks on, it has become a visible statement that we are all “unclean” and we must avoid each other. I will admit that I am so saddened by this “new normal”.

Today, I remember nineteen years ago when the events on September 11th, 2001, changed our world drastically. I can’t help but think the events this year, will also force us to change. Along with the pandemic that has forced us to rethink health and safety protocols on a world-wide scale, there is a renewed call for social justice, being “Woke”, as they say, to the plight and privilege based on skin colour. Change is necessary, but at what cost?

So, my thoughts meander about.

Personally, I think coping and reacting appropriately to the world events of this year is discovering what God may be trying to teach me in these unprecedented times, and to consider and understand what I value most in life.

– I value my relationship with God. He is the Solid Foundation I have built my life upon. He will lead me through these challenging times.

– I value Family. The closest bonds I have are with my loved ones. Spending quality time with them is a priority.

– I value deep-rooted friendships. They stand the test of time!

– I value education. It means immersing myself in learning, and seeing life from all perspectives. It doesn’t necessarily mean I agree with everything or everyone, especially if viewpoints run contrary to my Christian world view, but rather, I hope it allows me the opportunity to share Christ in a caring compassionate way rather than sow further division.

– I value health and safety. This includes physical and mental health. I take time to count all the ways God has blessed me and to dwell on that rather than focus on negativity. (I value it, I haven’t said I’ve mastered it.)

These are just a few key things I value. I could list many more. I challenge you, my readers to make your own list of values, and think on those this week!

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