Tag Archives: making a difference

EARTH without ART is just EH

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I had lunch with a missionary friend of mine the other day.  She talked about her deep desire to just be a normal woman, a mom and wife with few responsibilities outside her home.  She said she envied her sister who is not a missionary and does not have to write newsletters to supporters.  She day dreamed about taking art classes and expanding her new veggie garden.  She longed for her childhood days on the family farm where they worked just to survive without a thought as to how their lives appeared to others.

She said, “I just want to care for my family and to fill the world with beauty.  Is that enough?”

I smiled.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the main purposes why God made women to love beauty.  God is the Creator of all things beautiful.  He’s the Artist.  I too am an artist.  Speaking as an artist, I like it when people are inspired and moved by what I make.  I think God likes that too.  He likes it when we are inspired and moved by what he makes.  God made Woman and she was exceedingly beautiful.  Man was moved by her beauty.  Woman looked around her and saw the exceeding beauty of Nature.  Woman was inspired by Nature’s beauty to create more beauty through her Art.  It’s a layering effect of appreciating beauty which brings glory and pleasure to the Great Artist.  It’s a reflecting of the very nature of God within us.

As an artist, there is something in my soul that comes alive only when I am creating.  I feel like it’s an extravagant element in my personality.  Creating art doesn’t actually DO anything in the grand scheme of life.  It’s not particularly productive or practical (that’s the other side of my nature at war with my artistic side).  But Art reveals something about us spiritually and enhances our relation to God.  I relate to God on a deeper level when art is part of the equation, because my Creator made me this way.  I think he wanted there to be some people who can appreciate the beauty he creates.  These people are just extravagant touches to his Grand Masterpiece.  When I appreciate beauty, it brings glory to God and that pleases him.

So is it enough to just want to fill the world with beauty?  Maybe, because it brings Glory to God and mirrors his character in us as we long to create beauty as well.  Maybe for now, that is enough, my friend.

http://www.deshow.net/cartoon/fantasy-art-painting-566.html

here’s the website to this artist’s page. Josephine Wall. http://www.deshow.net/cartoon/fantasy-art-painting-566.html

Spirit Breaker: When Life Disappoints Me

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Warning:  This blog post contains indelicate, unorthodox, inelegant, and unrefined locution not merely for the purpose of being vulgar or crass, but for the express intention of communicating intense emotions with appropriately magnified rhetoric.  All opposed should cease reading approximately midway through this article.  ~Respectfully, Overly Conscious, Dutifully, Protectively and Sincerely Yours, The Author.

As we each journey through life we find something meaningful to pour our heart and soul into.  For me, I find meaning in pouring myself into ministry to others.  But sometimes we meet with a challenge or road block that can be a Spirit Breaker for us.  Sometimes it’s losing something that we’ve invested ourselves in that causes heart break.  Sometimes the heart break takes the form of rejection by someone that we have loved or someone that we have given our best to.  For me, that is the worst Spirit Breaker.  It takes a long time to heal from that kind of heart break and it takes a true act of the will to love again.

Josh, talking with students

Let me give you an example of this kind of Spirit Breaker.  Back in 1996 Josh was a Senior in Bible College.  We had been married for about a year and a half.  That summer our son was born, Josh was working on his internship and holding down 2 part time jobs.  Then he returned to classes in the fall and added that load to his back as well.  He was working very hard.  In the middle of his internship under the youth pastor at our home church, the youth pastor resigned!  Josh finished his internship (a.k.a. worked for free as the youth pastor) and in the fall was hired part time to officially fill the position.  He worked full time and was paid part time.  He graduated the following spring with a degree in youth ministry and more than a year of experience already under his belt.  The next 8 years were both fantastically successful and fantastically painful as we poured ourselves heart and soul into the youth group. We loved those teenagers more than they will ever know.

We graduated 8 classes of teenagers.  We played a part in the development of a couple hundred teenagers during those 8 years.  The best part was being a spiritual influence, mentor, guide, and leader to kids in various stages of spiritual growth from 7th grade to 12th grade.  The worst part, the Spirit Breaker was when kids would make bad decisions even when they knew the right path to take.  As youth leaders we could only stand at the side of the road of life and shout words of encouragement or caution.  We couldn’t force people to follow God.  We couldn’t force people to behave right.  We couldn’t force kids to stay in the church after they graduated from high school.

It was more than heart breaking to see kids that we had prayed over, cried with, and poured our heart and soul into then leave the youth group and turn their hearts away from God.  We felt like failures when we saw some of our teens floundering inspite of our best efforts to lead them on the right path.  We loved those kids and tried to show them God’s love.  When things went bad, we had to remind ourselves that these kids weren’t rejecting us, they were rejecting God.

Compounding this heart break, this sense of failure, was the lack of support– sometimes open hostility- that we experienced from some of the parents.  We used to joke that Moses had the right idea:  he killed off everyone over 20 before he lead the Children of Israel into the Promised Land.  Of course that was a joke, and we had a few amazingly supportive parents on our side, but it was just that the disgruntled ones complained so loudly and some were on the church board.

Josh had a particularly devastating experience when a deacon who had kids in the youth group swore at him and complained that the church would be better off without a youth pastor.  This deacon immediately went on my “list of people I do not like” and it was really hard to minister to his kids after that.  I could have let that be a Spirit Breaker for me, but I chose the high road and chose to keep loving the kids even though their dad was a jerk.

(Readers of sensitive constitution should omit the following paragraph.)  I can’t tell you how many times I was horrified and humiliated by a parent when we were in youth ministry.  I had one guy stop me in the church lobby on a Sunday night to complain that there were not enough teens in church on Sunday nights so his kid didn’t want to come either.  Then in the same breath he complained that I was looking a little sloppy for church- I was wearing a T-shirt and cargo pants.  I wanted to tell him, “Screw you!  I don’t drive your kids to church, you do!  And I can wear whatever the hell I want, no one is paying me to be here or to abide by a dress code.  This is probably WHY kids didn’t want to come to church, because some self-righteous prick might criticize their clothing.”

Instead I again chose the high road (with a touch of smart-aleck) and said, “I dressed up nice this morning when all the grown ups were in church.  I figured there wouldn’t be as many grown ups here tonight, so I could dress more appropriately for ministering to teenagers.”  I was shocked that someone would be so critical of me personally.  It was like I wasn’t even a human being in this parent’s mind.  I was giving my all in a “job” where I never received ONE paycheck and this was the reward?  Spirit Breaker.

But I always had hope that I was making an eternal difference for some kid out there.  What off-set all the heart breaking experiences in youth ministry were the times when a kid would really surprise us.  Sometimes a kid that struggled a lot as a teen would pull it together and become a strong Christian adult!  Surprise!  We never could tell how all these seeds that we were planting would turn out.  We had to keep the hope alive.

We just had to hope that we were making an eternal difference even though we didn’t see the evidence right away.  I remember on our last night at youth group, kids and parents were standing around waiting to talk with us and to say good bye.  A few hours later, as the crowd began to dwindle, a girl from a past graduating class came up to me.  She had driven 4 hours from college to say good bye to us.  Then she had waited in line for at least an hour to talk to me.  Ironically, I never felt like I connected well with this girl even though I tried.  I really did love her though.  She started crying and thanking me for the cards that I used to write to her.  Just that little act of attention meant a lot to her.  I was very touched.  Somehow I had made a difference in her life even though I didn’t know it at the time.

Hope.  It is only in thinking of the possible results of the millions of little acts of kindness that I can set aside the pain of Spirit Breaking experiences and to keep on loving and giving and working and sowing seeds into the lives of others.  My only hope is that somewhere along the way, something I do will MEAN something, someone will be touched by a little act of kindness, someone will see Jesus differently because I loved through the heart break.  And for me, that is the only way to overcome a broken spirit… hope for better.

“God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits, to the woman who diligently seeks.  It is a good thing to quietly hope for help from God.  It is a good thing when you’re young to stick it out through the hard times.”  Lamentations 3:24-26

Courage

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I take no credit for this picture.

Take a good look at this photo that a friend of mine posted on her fb page.  It was taken in 1939 at a ceremony for the launch of a new ship.  Do you see the one man in the crowd who refused to give the Nazi salute?  His name is August Landmesser.  We don’t know much about him except that he had already been in trouble with the authorities for marrying a Jewish woman.  He was sentenced to two years hard labor.  He and his wife had 2 children.  One of his children recognized her father in the crowd when this picture was published in a German newspaper in 1991.

Now take a look at the two guys behind August Landmesser.  They are taking notice of him.  They notice his refusal to salute. I’m guessing by the smirk on August’s face that by this point in his life he’s not too concerned with fitting in with the crowd.  But sometimes it’s hard to be the only one not following the crowd.  Sometimes we wonder if anyone notices the stand we are making- if anyone is catching the point we are making.  Does it matter if we are the only one not conforming?  Is it worth the effort to paddle against the current?  The guys behind August noticed.  August’s wife and children noticed the stand he made for them.  Here we are 73 years later… and we see him still making his stand.

“Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right.”  Wiser words are hard to find.  What are you standing for today?  Are you paddling against the current and feeling tired?  Are you discouraged because you think no one is noticing, that your sacrifice is being made in vain, that you aren’t making a difference?  Be encouraged.  Someone is watching you.  Someone is reading your facebook updates and blog posts.  Someone is watching your life closer than you think.  Someone noticed when you did what was right.  You might not see it yet, but you are causing a ripple.  Take courage dear Lonely Soldier.  Your fight is not in vain!

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