We were in Victoria over Easter visiting with our grandchildren and their parents. On Easter morning, we rose early. As the dawn began to lighten the sky, my own anticipation grew within me. My heart welling up in joy. Christ is risen, Indeed! I love the song I first heard Sandi Patti sing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eb1ayV5sTtM
Was it a morning like this?
When the sun still hid from Jerusalem,
And Mary rose from her bed
to tend the Lord she thought was dead…
Did the grass sing?
Did the earth rejoice to feel You again?
Over and over like a trumpet underground
Did the earth seem to pound, "He is risen!"
Over and over in a never-ending round
"He is risen, hallelujah, hallelujah!"
I sang most of the way on the 20-minute drive to the beach where several congregations gathered to share in greeting the sunrise with an Easter service of singing, praising God. It was a beautiful morning the clouds were a blushing rose hue. The Cascades across the Strait of Juan de Fuca were clear and bathed in pale pink. And as we sang the sun broke over the hills. Glorious!
The week before Easter, I reworked the painting: A New Covenant for a Painting Prayers session for Lent for a women’s group. I was never quite satisfied with the part of the painting where the light was exploding out of the Holy of Holies “as the curtain was torn from top to bottom” (Matthew 27:51), so I fixed it. This moment in time is a glorious event - The curtain that separated us from the Holy of Holies, God’s presence, was torn as Jesus breathed his last. It signifies a New Covenant that the old testament passage in Jeremiah refers to:
31 The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
We can be known and loved by the God of the universe. He will write it on our hearts, we can belong to him, know him. “I will be their God and they shall be my people.” My heart sings glory and rejoices as it did on Easter morning.
Art is a work in progress. Is a painting ever finished? Maybe for a time. I put it in a mat, or get it framed and hang it on my wall, and I let it speak to me. I see things I didn’t before. I see connections, stories. And I sometimes see ways to repaint it, or ways to take it further to a new idea, or to improve it. Often, my paintings are my “windows to God.” Moments that I hear God speak to me in metaphor. I have shared some of that to you through my blogs and newsletters and in my book. Sometimes the same painting can speak to me differently than it did before. I may be done painting it, but the process continues with each person the painting connects with, like a story, that lives on with the retelling, with every person that it engages.
Like paintings, we are also works in progress.
Over the past few weeks, I have been stewing about scripture to select for the upcoming Art, Vocabulary of the Soul Retreat. It has been a slow process. As I think back over the last few years and every time, it usually is a slow process. I read the Bible and I listen to the nudging of the Holy Spirit, I wait some more. I talk to others and come back to it. I listen to the stories of some of the participants coming and I wait some more for the nudging of the Holy Spirit. I am waiting for the peace that comes when it is altogether.
As I wait there is a battle going on inside of me, with my inner critics vociferously taking in my head. What if I get it wrong? What if I can not choose something that goes together? What if everyone hates it? What if I fail to listen when God has nudged me? I don’t want to wait, and listen. I want it solved and ready. It all feels a bit like crashing waves, violent and powerful battering the peace I desire.
Paul writes in Romans 8:1 "Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…"
These are valid fears and feelings. It is my ego, or as Paul talks about it in Romans, my flesh, that condemns me. It condemns, because when I am relying on my self I cannot live up to the ego’s standards. But praise be to God there is another perspective. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. The way past the inner critics is to acknowledge the fears and then turn the perspective. This isn’t about me.
Later in Romans 8, Paul wrote in verses 15-16, "the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children."
I am God’s daughter; I belong to him. In that perspective I can look past myself and see. Who is God gathering together, and what does He want to do for the weekend? Even if this is not always easy to do, to let go and trust the process. As I trust the process, I am turning myself over to God, and trusting my Father. I am trusting that he will meet me here as I prepare, that the people he wants to be there will be, and that he will meet with each person coming. Trusting the process is letting God lead me as slowly as he chooses to, and not racing ahead on my own. After all, is it slow because I get in the way?
For all of that I am excited for the retreat, I look forward to seeing what God will do in each person there. God has shown this time after time that He does meet each person there and amazing things happen every time. I look forward to seeing what he will do this time.
Our numbers for the retreat are complete. The scripture is selected and I can now get excited for the retreat. Please partner with us in prayer: as we each prepare our hearts to hear what God has in store for us and as we participate in the weekend – June 24-26.